Aquino in Japan, eyes 10 patrol boats

Paterno Esmaquel II
President Benigno Aquino III will receive $287 million in loans from Japan

TOKYO SUMMIT. President Benigno Aquino III arrives at the Tokyo International Airport, Haneda on Dec 12, 2013 to join fellow regional leaders attending the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit. Photo by Gil Nartea/Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III arrived in Japan on Thursday, December 12, to receive US$287 million in loans that will fund patrol boats, among others, in the face of disputes over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Aquino III flew to Japan primarily to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo.

On the sidelines of this summit, Aquino will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, December 13, in a working lunch meeting.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the two leaders will witness the signing of the Exchange of Notes on 3 matters: 

• a post-disaster standby loan worth JP¥ 10 billion (approximately $100 million)

• a loan for multi-role response vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard worth JP¥18.732 billion (approximately $187 million)

• the revised route schedule for the Philippines-Japan Air Services Agreement

‘Image-building’

In a statement on Thursday, Aquino thanked Japan for extending $20.5 million in aid to victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the Philippines.

Tunay nga po, na sa panahon ng taimtim nating pangangailangan, ipinaramdam nila: Hindi tayo nag-iisa. Ito po ang mga dibidendo ng marangal at mahusay nating pakikitungo’t pakikipag-ugnayan sa ating mga kaalyado’t kaibigan,” Aquino said. (Truly, at a time of dire need, they made us feel we’re not alone. These are the dividends of our dignified and excellent relationship with allies and friends.)

Abe, who visited the Philippines in July, pledged to boost the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard.

It is an “image-building” move on the part of Tokyo, said Japanese Studies expert Lydia Yu Jose. (READ: Japan PM’s visit to PH: ‘Image-building.)

Aquino said he and Abe will also discuss a possible defense treaty. (READ: PH, Japan to discuss possible defense pact.)

Their meeting comes in the face of a new threat from China.

This is China’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication, or face “emergency defensive measures.”

The zone covers Tokyo-controlled islands – known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China – where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other.

In a statement, the DFA said the ADIZ “transforms the entire airzone into its domestic airspace, infringes on the freedom of flight in international airspace, and compromises the safety of civil aviation and national security of affected states.”

“The Philippines calls China to ensure that its ADIZ preserves regional security and stability,” the DFA added.

Japan has also voiced concern over the ADIZ. (READ: Japan warns of ‘unpredictable events’ over China’s new air zone.) with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.