India offers Philippines 7 helicopters amid Manila’s deteriorating ties with China
India is offering the Philippines at least seven helicopters that will be used for the rescue and humanitarian efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) during disasters in the country, the President of the Philippines said in an official statement on Sunday.
The offer comes amid Manila’s deteriorating ties with China in the South China Sea region.
Philippines President Ferdinand R Marcos Jr said that India's offer to provide helicopters to the PCG will be a big help to the Philippine government's efforts to build up the country's capabilities in terms of rescue and humanitarian efforts.
The President, in the statement, added that it will also be "a big contribution to PCG's maritime operations".
"We're trying to build up our capacity - our capabilities in terms of our coast guard, in terms of our - of course, the search and rescue is always the primary consideration," President Marcos said.
"As you heard the news, there is a continuing problem really that we have to deal with and we have to increase our capabilities," the President added.
Marcos made the remarks during the courtesy call of the Indian Ambassador to the Philippines, Shambhu Kumaran, last week where he discussed the continuing efforts to strengthen the bilateral relations between the Philippines and India.
Kumaran said that there are already ongoing talks between the Indian government, the PCG, and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the supply of seven helicopters for the agency's maritime search and rescue operations and humanitarian services.
"The discussion is going on very well. The Coast Guard is very interested - they've flown the helicopter ... I would request your consideration because that would be a very positive (program)," Kumaran told President Marcos.
Kumaran said that the helicopters that will be provided to the PCG are built for India's Navy and Coast Guard and can be used for more active security operations that can carry more people and load.
"So, these [seven helicopters] is really an optimal solution, given the changing requirements for the Philippine Coast Guard to play a more active role and its security," Kumaran added.
Japan is extending security assistance to the Philippines amid China’s belligerence. On Saturday Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country, the Philippines, and the United States were cooperating to protect the freedom of the South China Sea as he committed to help enhance Manila's security capabilities.
"In the South China Sea, the trilateral cooperation to safeguard the freedom of the sea is underway," Kishida, on an official visit, said in an address before the Philippine Congress in the capital Manila. Kishida met Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Friday where the two leaders agreed to start negotiations on a reciprocal troop access deal to strengthen military cooperation amid an increasingly assertive China.