Aquino: US, Japan need to know PH terrain
President Aquino says the US and Japan are 'strategic partners' and they should be familiar with the Philippine terrain in case of a 'disturbance'

STRATEGIC PARTNERS: President Benigno Aquino III says U.S. and Japan are Philippines' 'only strategic partners'. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines —President Benigno Aquino III justified a government plan to give the US and Japan more access to Philippine military bases. He said these “strategic partners” should be familiar with Philippine terrain in case of a “disturbance.”

“There are only two strategic partners that we have. It is America and Japan…. If we don’t coordinate with them and fix our systems for a possible disturbance, I think that is wrong preparation. That is the absence of preparation,” the President told reporters in Filipino on Tuesday, July 2. 

“They need to know our terrain. We need to practice inter-operability,” he added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government is drafting plans to allow US forces to spend extended time on the Philippines’ military bases. He said the same plan will be offered to Japan’s military.

The plan drew mixed reactions.

READ: Give Australia, ASEAN access to bases

And it comes at a difficult time for Philippine-China relations.

On Saturday, June 29, China’s state-run media warned that the Philippines should brace itself for a possible “counterstrike should Beijing continue to be provoked in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The Philippines has accused China of “massive” military buildup in the disputed West Philippine Sea. In a statement released on the first day of the annual Asia-Pacific talks in Brunei, the Philippines warned that the Asian giant’s tactics threatened peace in the region.

Hindi naman siguro pwedeng mag-practice tayo outside of our territory. It is but the natural circumstance. If you want a credible alliance, then you will have to have mutual training that will normally occur within our territory or teh allies’ territory,” he explained.

Nevertheless, the President said the government will do everything to pursue peaceful means in resolving the conflict.

The Philippines brought the territorial row before the  International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

READ: Top maritime judge to hear PH case vs China

“It is in our Constitution. We renounce war as policy,” Aquino stressed. — Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler