MANILA – Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced the ‘increasing convergence’ of the Philippines and Japan with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
“The agreement is to start discussions and it will be about transfer of equipment and technology,” Gazmin said in a roundtable meeting.
He noted, however, that the VFA will take time, mentioning that the Philippines and Australia’s defense alliance was completed in seven years.
“It will not be completed under President Aquino’s administration,” Gazmin said, adding that rushing the agreement may repeat the flaws in the Philippines and United State’s VFA which granted the US sole jurisdiction over its troops during training here.
The Philippines and Japan’s VFA had been considered during President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s state visit to Japan this month.
Prior the consideration of a military agreement, the Philippine and Japanese forces had already been working together on air and naval drills. These joint drills, however, were deemed unconstitutional because of the absence of a Senate-ratified treaty.
As of now, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) had already started preliminary talks with Japan’s officials regarding the VFA. After the talks, the agreement will then go through constitutional processes.
With China’s aggressive reclamation activities in the disputed Spratly Islands, Gazmin clarified that the Philippines and Japans’ initiative to deepen bilateral relationship was not directed at any country but was acted upon the interest of exploring ways to strengthen both country’s defenses.
Gazmin admitted, however, that the Philippines and Japan were indeed weary over a ‘common neighbor.’
“The maritime challenges both our countries face place both of us almost in the same boat, with a common neighbor causing alarm and concern for both of us,” he said.