Philippines 'politically important nation for Japan'

CAVITE, Philippines – A Japanese minister highlighted the significance of close ties between Manila and Tokyo in maintaining peace in the region. 

"The Philippines is a politically important nation for Japan as it is located in the sea line of communication to Japan [and] we are faced with many security-related issues in Asia Pacific, including those in the South China Sea," Japan State Minister for Defense Kenji Wakamiya said on Monday, March 27.

"Our cooperation with the Philippines for regional security and stability is now even more significant," he added.

Wakamiya led the formal turnover of TC-90 patrol planes to the Philippine Navy on Monday in a ceremony held at the Naval Air Group headquarters in Sangley, Cavite. 

The secondhand planes will boost the Philippine Navy's capability to patrol its waters as China continues to aggressively assert dominance in the West Philippine Sea. 

The TC-90s are faster and have longer range than their counterpart in the Philippine Navy's current inventory, the Islander aircraft.

Wakamiya noted the "great friendship" of the two countries through Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (READ: Abe trip to Davao shows PH, Japan 'more than brothers')

"Since President Duterte took office, there have been 3 bilateral summit meetings and our countries are in great friendship. I myself have met with Secretary Lorenzana just now and had a productive meeting on the future prospects of our defense cooperation," Wakamiya said. 

The Philippines and Japan have also begun discussions on the possibility of Japan supplying spare parts for the UH1H choppers of the Philippine Air Force. (READ: Japan pledges $8.7-billion aid package to PH– Rappler.com