The Philippines on Thursday formally received one of 10 Japanese patrol vessels provided by an official development assistance loan to improve Manila’s maritime capabilities amid its territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.
The 44-meter multi-role response vessel, which will be named BRP Tubbataha and assigned to the Philippine Coast Guard, was built by Japan Marine United Corp. in Yokohama and funded by a 7.3 billion peso ($158 million) loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The Philippine government is contributing 1.4 billion pesos to the 10-vessel project, which is expected to be completed in 2018.
Coast guard spokesman Armando Balilo said that, once commissioned, the BRP Tubbataha is likely to be deployed on patrol missions in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea where the Philippines claims jurisdiction.
The Philippines has long complained about China’s aggressive assertion of territorial claims in the South China Sea and its driving away of Filipino fishermen from Scarborough Shoal and its deployment of energy-surveying ships at resource-rich Reed Bank. The two features are within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, based on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
After seeking international arbitration in 2013, the Philippines last month successfully debunked China’s “nine-dash line” claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, and also received legal affirmation for its fishermen, as well as those from other nations, to fish around Scarborough Shoal. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague also criticized China for causing massive damage to the marine environment in the waters through its reclamation and construction activities on some of the disputed features.
While it does not officially take sides in the South China Sea disputes, Japan has criticized China’s behavior and urged respect for the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have overlapping territorial claims in the busy sea lane, which is also believed to contain substantial deposits of oil and natural gas.
In addition to the patrol vessels, Japan has agreed to lease up to five Maritime Self-Defense Force TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines.
Source and image: Japan Times