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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Philippines, Japan set to sign access deal, says Malaya

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The National Security Council (NSC) bared that the Philippines and Japan are expected to sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) before the end of 2024.

NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya, in a new forum, also said the move will “solidify the defense cooperation between the two maritime nations.”

The RAA—which is quite similar to the United States’ Visiting Forces Agreement—will serve as the guidelines for the entry and operation of Filipino troops in Japanese territory and vessels, and vice versa, the official said.

“After the trilateral summit (in Washington DC), the Japanese Prime Minister and the President of the Philippines have given instructions to our negotiators to proceed immediately,” Malaya, quoted by ABS-CBN News, said.

“We are confident that before the end of this year will be signed,” he said.

While “such agreements take time” the negotiations between Manila and Tokyo are “moving at a quick pace,” Malaya said.

The Philippines first announced that it is planning to sign an RAA with Japan in November last year.

Earlier this week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the RAA would be different from the VFA as Japanese troops are not expected to stay in the Philippines.

The President earlier also said: “It’s not going to be as if it’s their base and they, their seamen will come down and will go into the city and go— I don’t think that that’s a part of the agreement.”

“There aren’t any real conflicts in principle. It’s just a question of getting the language down and defining precisely how it’s going to work, the logistical systems and how that’s going to work,” he said.

“It should not take very much longer. I think we’re very close to completion on that.”

Reports said several countries are planning to ink similar military agreements with the Philippines to be able to send their troops to the country for joint cooperation and training exercises, Malaya said.

“They understand that our position is important. We stand for the rule of law, a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the official further said.

Malaya declined to name which countries were working to establish military exchange programs with the Philippines, but noted that while there are Western and Asian countries on the list, none are in Southeast Asia.

“Wala. These are countries outside of ASEAN [pero] mayroon within Asia,” he said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The Philippines needs to be “pragmatic” about expanding its military and defense ties beyond the region given ASEAN’s willingness to back the Philippines’ push against China’s expansionist agenda, said geopolitical analyst Don McLain Gill.

“The nature of ASEAN reflects on national interest… Each ASEAN country has its own strategic culture,” he said, underscoring that several bloc members have close political and economic ties to China.

“ASEAN is a mixed basket of countries with different threat perceptions,” he said. “We have to expand our options because our issues are more acute compared to the issues being faced by other ASEAN countries.”

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