Japan to build four radar stations in Philippines

Reuters, TOKYO

Sat, Nov 11, 2017 - Page 5

Japan plans to build four coast guard radar stations on islands in the Sulu Celebes Seas separating the Philippines and Indonesia to help Manila counter a surge in piracy by Muslim insurgents, two sources said.

An agreement to fund the facilities and provide training to local coast guard personnel may be signed as early as next week by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, the sources said.

“The seas in that area are an important waterway for merchant ships traveling to Japanese ports,” one of the people with knowledge of the plan said.

The sources asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to talk to the media.

Of the 30 acts of piracy reported in the first half of this year, six involved the use of guns, including three crew abductions from ships under way in the Sulu Celebes Seas, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia said.

Four attempted abductions in the waters were also logged.

Japan is to fund construction of the radar stations through its Overseas Development Aid budget, the sources said.

“Japan is aware of the need to counter piracy in the region and is keen to help, but we can’t discuss individual projects,” said an official at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which oversees spending by the Overseas Development Aid.

The radar stations are part of a wider aid package that include helicopter parts for the Philippine military, financing for infrastructure projects, such as rail lines, and help to rebuild conflict-torn southern Marawi city after five months of military operations against Islamic State rebels.

By providing such aid Tokyo is aiming to deepen economic and security ties with Manila, as it looks to contain China’s growing power.

Japan sees the Philippines, which lies on the eastern side of the South China Sea, as a key ally in helping prevent Beijing’s influence spreading into the western Pacific.

Abe is to travel to the Philippines on Monday following a two-day gathering of regional leaders at the APEC forum in Da Nang, Vietnam.