This week, the Philippines received two patrol boats as part of an earlier agreement inked with France. The delivery spotlighted the defense aspect of ties between the two countries as the Philippines looks to boost its capabilities to address manifold challenges in the maritime realm.
As I have noted before in these pages, the Philippines and France have a longstanding relationship that has been deepening in the defense realm in recent years. For instance, in May 2016, both sides inked a new defense agreement that set out a framework for developing security ties, including visits, training, capacity-building, and defense equipment and defense industry.
One of the manifestations of this was an agreement dating back to the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III for France to deliver patrol vessels to the Philippines. Under the Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project, which was formalized with a contract signing in September 2014, the Philippines was expected to initially receive five vessels from France – one 82-meter Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) and four 24-meter Fast Control Boats (FPB) – along with five-year preventive maintenance, spare parts for five years, and technical assistance and training for the crew.
Since then, both sides have been working through how to finalize the delivery of the vessels under the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. As part of that, in September 2017, both sides inked an effectiveness agreement for the acquisition of vessels that would see the first patrol boats delivered after eight months, with remaining ones arriving in succession after a 45-day delivery gap, and the OPV arriving up to 23 months following the signing of the contract.
This week, the deal was in the headlines again as two FPBs arrived and were commissioned to the PCG. The sea vessels BRP Malamawi (FPB 2403) and BRP Kalanggaman (FB 2404) arrived at Subic Port on Thursday, and were commissioned to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). This followed the two other FPBs BRP Boracay (FPB 2401) and BRP Panglao (FPB 2402), which had arrived in October.
The arrival of the two vessels this week completes the delivery of the initial four FPBs of its type that the deal had outlined. Philippine officials have said the boats, which will be jointly operated by the PCG and the Bureau of Customs, will begin to be used for a range of purposes, including countering smuggling and piracy.
As for the 82-meter OPV, per the Philippine News Agency, the PCG has also said that it will be scheduled for delivery in August 2019. Assuming that the deadline is met, it would effectively represent the completion of the initial iteration of the Philippine Ports and Coast Guard Capability Development Project.