The Philippine Coast Guard is set to acquire a former French Navy vessel worth €6 million to boost its off-shore patrol capabilities in the West Philippine Sea.
Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said the procurement of 54.8-meter French Navy vessel La Tapageuse has already been approved by Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
Isorena said the PCG is looking forward to this new acquisition that is expected to boost its capability for maritime search and rescue operations, maritime law enforcement, maritime safety, maritime environmental protection and maritime security.
“This French vessel is multi-functional and it would be a major contribution to our fleet. Unlike other vessels that are more appropriate for (Search and Rescue) operations, this soon-to-be latest addition was made for sovereignty patrol and law enforcement”, Isorena said.
He added the vessel will be deployed to places like the West Philippine Sea, Northern Luzon, and Southern Mindanao.
The Tapaguese has a built-in 40-millimeter anti-aircraft gun, a 20-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon, and two 7.62-millimeter machine guns.
The PCG will be buying the ship at a reasonable price of €399,000 but the refurbishing of the ship would entail additional cost. The Philippine government will be spending a total of €6.295 million or an equivalent of Php 354,754,000 million.
Tapaguese, until recently stationed in Papeete, French Polynesia, is expected to arrive in the country in April next year.
The Coast Guard chief explained that while the vessel is already 26 years old, it was thoroughly inspected last year and it was assessed to have another 20 years of usage yet.
Photo: Tapaguese at sea off Tahiti in 2003/ Jean-Michel Roche
The Philippine government is also in talks with French government for four brand new 24-meter and one 82-meter multipurpose vessels.
Meanwhile, Isorena also mentioned the construction of 10 multi-role patrol boats with Japan and noted the PCG and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is in the last phase of the agreement resolving the issue that five of the boats would be made in Japan and five boats by shipbuilders in the Philippines.
“One of the agenda in Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scheduled visit to our country next month is to finalize the details of the agreement in the construction of the multi-role vessels. We anticipate the arrival of these ships in year 2016”, the PCG commandant said.
The country’s maritime law enforcement agency is also anticipating the arrival of at least 25 out of a total 300 aluminium-hull boats this coming September. The remaining 275 boats, manufactured in Subic, will come in a staggered schedule until April next year.
The boats, which can seat 10, will be deployed for interisland, coastline and harbor-type patrols.
“There have been instances wherein our Coast Guard personnel had to hire the services of a fishing boat in order to respond to a situation and this takes time,” Isorena said. He said the deployment of the aluminum-hull boats will improve the PCG’s response time.
Photo: Philippine Coast Guard