By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

The Japan-made PCG patrol vessel BRP Teresa Magbanua (Photo courtesy of Japan Embassy)

MANILA – The five new capital ships of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will help boost the country’s response to tensions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Tuesday.

In a statement, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said the five 97-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRVs) being acquired under the Maritime Safety Capacity Improvement Project (MSCIP) Phase 3 will help protect Filipino fisherfolk within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and boost disaster response capability.

“These Japan-made multi-role vessels would be crucial for PCG’s strategic response to tensions at the WPS,” Bautista said.

The five new vessels will be in addition to the 12 Japanese-made vessels in the PCG fleet.

These include the BRP Teresa Magbanua and BRP Gabriela Silang — both 97-meter MRRVs.

“These modern assets have been long expected. This will certainly boost the moral support of Filipinos to our frontliners,” Bautista said.

The funding for the five vessels was secured on Monday through the signing of a loan deal between the DOTr, the Department of Finance (DOF), and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

During the event, DOF Secretary Ralph Recto said the vessels would help spur the country’s rapid growth.

“These vessels will help us steer towards harbors of economic security and prosperity for the Filipino people,” Recto said.

Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Endo Kazuya expressed the support of the Japanese government in boosting the country’s maritime sector.

“By handing over the vessels to the PCG, we hope to contribute even more to maintaining rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific Region,” Endo said.

Once delivered, the number of Japanese-made vessels in the PCG fleet will be 17.

On May 17, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Endo signed an exchange of notes for the acquisition of the five vessels.

Aside from funding, the agreement covers the development of required support facilities for the PCG to improve its capabilities in addressing transnational crimes. (PNA)