The Philippine National Police – Maritime Group (PNP-MG) took receipt of four new aluminium-hull patrol boats on the western island of Palawan on 8 July.
The four Dauntless 30-class vessels – built by Willard Marine based in California under a contract announced on 3 September 2015 – were donated to the Philippines by the US. Collectively they are worth more than $2.3 million.
They will be used to patrol coastal waters, combat smuggling, drugs, human trafficking and other forms of seafaring crime, all near areas high in tension due to territorial disputes between Manila and Beijing.
The vessels will be based at Honda Bay in Puerto Princesa City on Palawan. They will be operated by the 2nd Maritime Special Operations Unit (SOU), a formation that the US government helped establish in 2010.
The SOU has three units operating in Tawi-Tawi (1st SOU), Palawan (2nd SOU) and Zamboanga (3rd SOU) to enforce maritime and environmental laws. For example, the unit arrested Chinese turtle poachers near Hasa Hasa Shoal in 2014.
Willard Marine supplied two versions of the Dauntless 30 class to the PNP-MG. These were two 30ft boats with 480hp engines and dual waterjets, and two 34ft boats with 600hp engines and dual waterjets.
Capable of speeds of 50kt, the boats have heated/air-conditioned cabins, as well as gun mounts fore and aft. They can accommodate up to eight people, according to the manufacturer.
Michael Klecheski, the US Embassy deputy chief of mission, presided over the transfer ceremony. In a speech he highlighted the importance of improving maritime police equipment, since maritime domain factors feature in practically all the law enforcement and terrorist threats the Philippines faces today.
The US State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) provided the boats and spare parts for the PNP-MG. The INL will fund the training of personnel to operate these boats too.
According to the US Embassy in Manila, to date ‘the State Department has donated ten patrol boats that are the primary tools used by the SOU to rescue individuals or stop criminal behaviour’.