December 16, 2013
December 14 -- The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has signed a 18.732 billion Japanese Yen loan agreement with the Government of the Philippines to further boost maritime safety and enhance the capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
This follows the formal signing of the exchange of notes between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP) on the sidelines of the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in Tokyo. The loan agreement was signed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and JICA President Akihiko Tanaka.
Said support is covered by the Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) under Japan's official development assistance loan agreement with the Philippines.
The ODA loan project involves the construction of ten 40-meter Multi-Role Response Vessels (MRRVs) that is set to augment the Philippine Coast Guard Fleet operations. The said MRRVs are expected to contribute to maritime safety, maritime law enforcement, monitoring, pollution control, disaster response, and among others. Advanced shipbuilding technologies from Japan will be adopted in the construction of the vessels. Further, the project would also involve human resource development of PCG to improve skills in operating and maintaining the MRRVs.
"This initiative combines enhancing the Philippine capability on search and rescue responsibilities with disaster response and maritime safety. Since the Philippines is an archipelago, maritime safety is critical to the country's socio-economic development," said Takahiro Sasaki, JICA Chief Representative in the Philippines.
It can be recalled that during Prime Minister Abe's visit in Manila last July, he expressed his support towards Philippine maritime safety.
JICA has long supported the initiatives of PCG. Among the notable projects undertaken by JICA and PCG are the provision of vessels, rescue equipment, training facilities, communication systems, and maritime safety equipment. JICA also dispatched experts from the Japan Coast Guard (stationed in the PCG office) as part of its technical cooperation assistance.
Recently, experts from JICA and Japan Coast Guard assisted PCG in controlling the oil spill in Estancia, Iloilo after a power barge ran aground due to Typhoon Yolanda.
For the past years, maritime accidents in the Philippines have been due to increase in passenger and freight transport, improper operations, and natural disasters. Consequently, maritime crime has also risen as passengers increase, making maritime security efforts focus on smuggling, and illegal fishing among others.