By Raymund Antonio
The coast guards of the Philippines and Japan jointly conducted on Sunday an anti-piracy drill, featuring the simulated rescue of a hijacked vessel in Manila Bay.
The coast drill involved four patrol ships responding to the mock hijacking and arresting armed men aboard the vessel.
The Japanese coast guard fielded the patrol vessel Echigo and a helicopter during the maritime exercise north of Sangley Point in Cavite City.
Echigo is skippered by Capt. Chikara Toyota and has a crew of 53.
The Philippine Coast Guard , meanwhile, deployed more than 100 personnel and the multi-role response vessel BRP Suluan and fast patrol boat BRP Boracay, both of which were acquired from Japan, and the French-built patrol boat BRP Panglao.
Capt. Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman, underscored the importance of the joint exercise in battling piracy, especially in southeastern Mindanao.
Balilo said that 13,000 foreign vessels pass through the Sibutu Channel in Mindanao from China, Japan, Australia and South Korea.
The 29-kilometer-wide channel, which lies off Tawi-Tawi, is used by merchant shipping in transit between the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea.
“We have to prepare well on how to respond in piracy incidents,” Balilo said.
He attributed the zero incidents of piracy in southeastern Mindanao to the intensified patrols of the coast guard and Philippine Navy in cooperation with the local government units.
The Philippine and Japanese coast guard regularly hold regular exercises in combating piracy and robbery against ships.
Japan has been helping the Philippines improve its skills in maritime law enforcement, safety and environment protection, among others.