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Building up bonds

Manila Standard

Things are looking up, with the planned reciprocal access agreement or RAA between the Philippines and Japan which President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said would benefit both countries.

The plan surfaced during the recent visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida who expressed serious concerns about the situation in the East China Sea and the South China Sea.

The 66-year-old Japanese head of government underlined that any attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force in both areas was unacceptable.

President Marcos himself said the RAA would benefit both the defense and military personnel of Manila and Tokyo and contribute to maintaining peace and stability.

The two leaders agreed to start negotiations for a key defense pact that would allow their troops to enter each other’s territory for joint military exercises, a move considered part of efforts to strengthen their alliance in face of China’s agitating aggressiveness in the region.

Last weekend, Kishida became the first Japanese head of government to address a joint session of the Philippine congress, underlining how the Asian nations’ ties have transformed into what he called “Golden Age”since Japan’s brutal occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

Congressional leaders were hopeful the Philippines’ planned reciprocal access agreement with Japan will be implemented smoothly.

Kishida, during his two-day visit, also announced after holding talks with Mr. Marcos a coastal surveillance radar would be given to the Philippines through a grant, making the Philippines the first beneficiary of a newly launched Japanese security assistance program for allied militaries in the region.

Additional Japanese patrol vessels, defense equipment and radars would be provided to strengthen the Philippines’ law enforcement capability at sea, Kishida said.

Japan has supplied a dozen patrol ships in recent years to the Philippines, now largely used by Manila to defend its territorial interest in the disputed South China Sea.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año himself said the RAA will greatly boost the military cooperation between the two nations, aside from improving regional security.

“The proposed RAA will facilitate the procedures and set guidelines when Philippine forces visit Japan for training and joint exercises, and vice versa,” he added in a statement Sunday.

Año added the ongoing trilateral cooperation among Japan, the Philippines and the United States is crucial in safeguarding the freedom of the seas in the West Philippine Sea and promoting international law.

“Japan’s support in the form of equipment, technology cooperation, and patrol vessels will further enhance our maritime law enforcement capabilities,” he noted.

Like our security authorities, we look forward to the negotiations and implementation of these agreements and initiatives which doubtless would strengthen partnership and contribute to a more stable Indo-Pacific region.

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