During President Benigno Aquino III’s four-day state visit in Japan, one of his agendas was to enhance the strategic partnership of the Philippines and Japan.
This included crafting a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is an agreement between a country and a foreign country having military forces visiting the said country.
Aquino met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discussed the possibility of a military agreement.
“The Philippines does welcome this development and we will be initiating all the diplomatic requirements to come up with a Visiting Forces Agreement,” Aquino said in a press conference.
The Senate, however, still needs to approve such VFA.
“The Visiting Forces Agreement will have to be passed and approved by our Senate, but we will be starting discussions on all of the details embodied in this,” Aquino said.
At present, only the United States of America and Australia have a VFA with the Philippines, whose troops regularly visit the country. With Japan being one of the Philippines’ strategic partners, Aquino believed that a VFA with it is also needed.
“It does not behoove a good partnership if you’re not able to work at interoperability with the other,” Aquino said. “An agreement even for humanitarian concerns that exists only in paper will not be effective when there comes the time that you would need to be in coordination and in corporation or in joint operation with your strategic partner.”
Aquino and Abe had already signed a Joint Declaration on the Strengthened Strategic Partnership between the Philippines and Japan, focusing on defense, security cooperation, economic assistance and disaster relief operations.
Included in the two countries’ partnership is Japan’s export of a P-3C anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft and radar technology to the Philippines and defense talks, supply of 10 patrol vessels to the Philippine coast guard, and joint exercises in the military.
“We need maritime domain awareness. We have a 36,000-kilometer coastline. We want to know what’s happening in our waters,” Aquino said.
The Philippines, for its part, will grant Japan’s Self-Defense Forces access to the country’s military bases.