Philippines-Japan relations

How Marcos’ Japan trip went, from defense pact talks to investment pledges

Dwight de Leon

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How Marcos’ Japan trip went, from defense pact talks to investment pledges

ALLIES. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shake hands during the Commemorative Summit on the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

Presidential Communications Office

In Tokyo, President Marcos doubles down on his commitment to expedite a defense pact that would kickstart joint exercises with Japan. He also brings home P14.5 billion in investment pledges.

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. returned to the Philippines on Monday, December 18, after a four-day visit to Japan, his second time this year.

He flew to Japan primarily to attend the Commemorative Summit on the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, as the Philippines is among the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Here’s a rundown of the key moments for Marcos and the Philippine delegation during the trip, from discussions on a crucial military agreement, to business deals that promise to bring to the country thousands of new livelihood opportunities.

Philippines, Japan commit to quickly finalize potential access to each other’s military bases

When President Marcos held a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, both leaders doubled down on their commitment to expedite the planned Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) which, Marcos said, would help maintain regional peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Negotiations on the RAA – which would allow soldiers from both countries to enter each other’s territory for training and joint drills – already kicked off in Tokyo in November, with the Philippines represented by officials from the Department of National Defense, Department of Foreign Affairs, and Department of Justice.

Marcos said that while the RAA has been in the works for quite some time now, the incidents in the West Philippine Sea allowed both countries to “sharpen” their focus.

A win for the Philippines as ASEAN-Japan OK implementation plan on rules-based maritime order

During the summit, the regional bloc and Japan adopted the Implementation Plan of the Joint Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

A provision in that document commits to uphold international law, specifically the United Nations Charter and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

China has stood by its expansive claims in the South China Sea, which is in defiance of the UNCLOS, since those claims disregard the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The ASEAN-Japan commitment is important in light of rising tensions between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

Marcos sounds the alarm on North Korea, Myanmar

The “unilateral actions” by China in the South China Sea were not the only key issues raised by Marcos in his intervention during the first session of the ASEAN-Japan Summit.

He also condemned the intercontinental ballistic missile tests by North Korea which, he said, “threaten peace and stability in our region.”

It’s not the first time Marcos expressed alarm over nuclear tensions involving the rogue state, having made similar statements in November 2022 and September 2023.

Tokyo and Pyongyang have deeply strained ties, aggravated by North Korea’s test launch of ballistic missiles into Japanese waters over the years.

Marcos commits to clean energy

Marcos took part in the Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC) Leaders’ Meeting, in which he urged other countries to invest in the Philippines’ renewable energy industry.

A joint statement from the leaders promised to push for carbon neutrality, as part of climate change mitigation measures.

Eleven states are partner countries in AZEC, which seeks to promote decarbonization by taking advantage of Japan’s resources.

Marcos admin boasts about investment pledges, actualized investments

According to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), the Marcos administration secured P14.5 billion in investment commitments during the summit, in areas that include semi-conductors, healthcare, infrastructure, and agriculture.

If the pledges materialize, they would result in over 15,000 new jobs, the PCO added.

Presidential Adviser on Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go also said that Marcos’ first visit to Japan in February has led to P169 billion in actualized investments.

Marcos has made 11 foreign trips this year, and he has been criticized for his jet-setting presidency. Malacañang has defended the President by saying his international trips have yielded crucial investment opportunities for the Philippines. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.