New Japanese vessels to boost Philippine maritime security

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto (left) and JICA Chief Representative Takema Sakamoto (right) shake hand on the agreement. (DOF handout)

Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto announced the acquisition of new maritime vessels from Japan, marking a significant step towards enhancing the Philippines’ maritime security and economic prosperity.

“They will not only help strengthen our national security but also complement our broader infrastructure modernization program to spur rapid inclusive growth,” Recto emphasized during the signing ceremony.

The financing agreement for Phase III of the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) was formalized between Recto and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Chief Representative Takema Sakamoto on June 10, 2024. This project entails the design, construction, and delivery of five 97-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRVs), funded through a concessional loan of JPY 64.38 billion (approximately PHP 24.57 billion). The loan carries an interest rate of 0.30% per annum for non-consulting services and 0.20% per annum for consulting services, with a 40-year repayment period inclusive of a 10-year grace period.

In addition to the new vessels, the project includes a 5-year Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) to ensure the MRRVs’ operational readiness and sustainability. To date, JICA has provided 12 MRRVs to the Philippines under the first and second phases of the project, along with various PCG assets and capacity-building initiatives through grant financing.

Secretary Recto highlighted the enhanced capabilities the vessels will bring to the PCG, particularly in protecting maritime sovereignty, defending the rights of Filipino fisherfolk, preventing piracy, protecting the environment, countering smuggling, and conducting search and rescue operations.

JICA Chief Representative Sakamoto lauded the continuous support provided to the PCG, not only through hardware but also through knowledge and skills development via technical cooperation programs. “Proudly, I would like to reiterate that the best mix of hard and soft support is one of the beauties of Japan’s JICA’s unique cooperation,” Sakamoto stated.

Japan’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Endo Kazuya, expressed hope for continued support and deeper ties between the two nations. “I sincerely hope that this project will further deepen the friendship and cooperative ties that Japan and the Philippines have built through the years,” he remarked.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista expressed gratitude to the Department of Finance (DOF) for securing favorable terms in the agreement with JICA. The Finance Chief also extended thanks to Japan for its steadfast support and solidarity with the Philippines.

“Together, let us continue building ships that will strengthen our bonds and sail us faster and further towards a better future for the Filipino nation,” Recto concluded.

The signing ceremony was attended by DOF Undersecretary Joven Balbosa; DOTr Undersecretary Elmer Sarmiento; DOTr Undersecretary Timothy John Batan; PCG Deputy Commandant Coast Guard Vice Admiral Allan Victor Dela Vega; National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Assistant Secretary Roderick Planta; DOF OIC-Assistant Secretary Donalyn Minimo; Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Director Princess Tomas-Tayao; JICA Senior Representative Keisuke Fukui; and Embassy of Japan First Secretary Ide Masashi