Japan vows ₱6.7 B assistance to strengthen PH maritime surveillance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 15) — Japan vowed Tuesday to provide roughly ₱6.7 billion in assistance to help strengthen the maritime surveillance capability of the Philippines.

Japan will fund the construction of four coast guard radar stations on the country's southernmost islands, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Abe said this at a press conference shortly before the closing ceremonies of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings.

"In addition to supplying the Philippine coast guard with patrols and high speed vessels which are already being implemented... At the East- Asia summit we announced that we would provide assistance for over two years, amounting to approximately 15 billion yen (₱6.7 billion) to improve peace and order in the south of the Philippines and the Sulu and Celebes seas," Abe said.

Prior to this, bilateral talks between Abe and President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday witnessed the exchange of notes between several Japanese and Filipino agencies. This includes notes on the ₱355 billion Metro Manila subway project, and the Arterial Road Bypass Project Phase 3.

During the press conference, Abe stressed the importance of 'free oceans' in Asia.

He said the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the world's first and third largest bodies of water, must be free and open for all.

"Through these endeavors we want to promote the free and open inter-Pacific strategy which (we) advocate," Abe said.

Abe also did not miss the chance to raise another security concern in the region-- North Korea.

North Korea has launched 22 missile tests since February 2017 and alarmed the world with its rapidly-progressing nuclear program.

Abe said the greatest concern countries discussed at the East Asia Summit was North Korea's aggressive nuclear activities. 

He also reiterated his call for ASEAN nations to put pressure on the hermit state.

Abe said the international community should create an environment that will pressure North Korea to start dialogues with other countries and change their policy.

The East Asia Summit is a forum held annually by leaders of 19 countries from East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia, including the United States, Russia, Australia, and New Zealand.

On Monday during the ASEAN-Japan Summit, Abe made a similar statement, asking ASEAN states to exert the "highest level" of pressure on North Korea.

Japan took part and discussed North Korea in several events and ASEAN meetings.

This includes bilateral talks with the Philippines-- where President Duterte likewise condemned North Korea's launching of missiles -- the Japan-ASEAN Summit, and the East Asia Summit.

CNN Philippines' Amanda Lingao contributed to this report.