The Philippines said yesterday it was buying a surplus French navy vessel to boost its forces in the South China Sea, where it has a territorial dispute with China.
The 26-year-old Tapageuse is likely to be the first of several French ships that will be acquired by the Philippine Coast Guard as it contends with increasingly assertive Chinese forces.
The 54.8-metre patrol ship will cost €6 million (HK$61.5 million) and is due to arrive in the country by next April, a coastguard statement said.
The ship, which is armed with two cannon and two machine-guns, was inspected before acquisition and is good for 20 more years of service, the coastguard said.
"This French vessel is multi-functional and it would be a major contribution to our fleet, particularly in our search and rescue operations," coastguard chief Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena was quoted as saying.
The Philippines is also finalising with the French government the purchase of four brand-new 24-metre and one 82-metre multipurpose vessels, Isorena said.
These new ships would arrive in the first quarter of 2015, the statement added, without specifying their cost.
Isorena also recalled that the coastguard was already set to acquire 10 multi-role patrol boats under an aid programme with Japan.
The announcement came as a second-hand US cutter acquired by the Philippine Navy sailed into the country's waters, where it will also help in patrolling the South China Sea.
Tensions have risen in recent years over China's increasingly forceful claims to almost all of the South China Sea, even up to the coasts of its neighbours such as the Philippines.
These tensions have worsened since Chinese government vessels seized the Scarborough Shoal, a South China Sea outcrop just 230 kilometres east of the main Philippine island of Luzon, last year.