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June 28, 2017

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Philippine Navy eyeing coast guard boat purchase from US

MANILA -- The Philippine Navy on Sunday said it was in talks with the United States government to buy a secondhand coast guard cutter to upgrade its ageing fleet.

Navy chief Rear Admiral Alexander Pama said the 380-feet (115 meter) Hamilton class vessel, which he did not name, would significantly boost Manila's capability to patrol its archipelago.

"We are actively discussing with the U.S. government the possible acquisition of the Hamilton class," he said.

"We need this to boost security in our exclusive economic zone."

Pama said the Hamilton class cutters are the biggest vessels used by the U.S. coast guard, with the exception of heavy ice breakers.

The vessel was expected to arrive in Manila in the first half of the year, replacing the navy's flagship BRP Raja Humabon, a Cannon-class destroyer escort which is probably one of the world's oldest war ships, the Filipino navy said.

Equipped with a retractable hangar, a helicopter flight deck and powered by a dual engine or gas turbines, the Hamilton cutter is described as a high endurance cutter with close-in weapons systems.

Pama said he could not disclose exact figures for the purchase, which he described as the first of several being planned.

The Philippines is considered a non-NATO military ally by the United States, which has been sending troops to the impoverished country for training missions to help crush al-Qaida-linked militants in its troubled south.

The Philippine armed forces is considered by many experts as among the weakest in the Asian region, but President Benigno Aquino vowed to modernize it shortly after assuming his post in June last year.

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