Two brand new 24-meter fast-patrol boats manufactured by French shipbuilder OCEA were commissioned for anti-smuggling operations in Philippine waters.
France supports the development of Philippine maritime capabilities and protecting the country’s porous borders, said French Ambassador Nicolas Galey on Monday at the commissioning ceremony of the BRP Panglao and the BRP Boracay at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) headquarters.
“We welcome the conclusion of this agreement between the Philippine government and OCEA, which is one of the global leaders in the shipbuilding industry, to acquire these vessels with the aim of developing the maritime capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard and protecting the country’s borders,” Galey said.
The patrol boats are part of a P5.82-billion contract (97 million euros) signed in 2014 between France’s OCEA and the Department of Transportation for PCG’s acquisition of four new 24-meter fast patrol boats and one 82-meter offshore patrol vessel.
According to the French Embassy in Manila, the contract was financed through an export-credit loan structured by the French banks BNP Paribas and CréditAgricole, with a guarantee from the French state.
The French-built vessels will enhance PCG’s capability in conducting maritime security, safety, maritime search and rescue, marine environmental protection as well as offshore patrolling of the country’s exclusive economic zone.
Three of the four fast patrol vessels will be used in the PCG and the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) joint operations to protect maritime borders and suppress smuggling.
As part of the agreement, OCEA will provide training for the crew, a five-year period of maintenance and the provision of spare parts.
The two remaining fast patrol boats are expected to be delivered before the end of this year, while the 82-meter offshore patrol vessel will be delivered to the PCG by August 2019.
The contract provides DOTr an option to acquire a second 82-meter offshore patrol vessel with armament.
Meanwhile, the BOC and PCG signed a memorandum of agreement to conduct anti-smuggling joint operations in Philippine waters.
Under the agreement, PCG will use three of its fast patrol vessels for joint operations in the enforcement of laws pertaining to border control and prevention of the entry of smuggled goods, prevention and suppression of smuggling and other customs fraud.
BOC shall be responsible for the issuance of sailing orders upon the need of the agency’s law enforcement operations.
Captain Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman, said BRP Boracay (FPB 2401) and BRP Panglao (FPB 2402) will be jointly utilized for anti-smuggling operations. One patrol vessel can accommodate 27 persons or 12 crew members and 16 passengers.
BOC Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said the vessels will be deployed to the South (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi area) and in the Visayas where smuggling is rampant.
Balilo said the patrol vessels, which have a maximum speed (light load) of up to 30 knots, are specially designed for hot pursuit operations and can endure rough weather conditions.#