Philippines-Japan relations

Philippines, Japan agree to start talks on visiting forces deal

Bea Cupin

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Philippines, Japan agree to start talks on visiting forces deal

PARTNERS. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hold a bilateral meeting in Malacanang on November 3, 2023.

Yummie Dingding/PPA POOL

Japan also gives the Philippines a P235.5-million grant aid for coastal radar systems

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Japan have agreed to start negotiations on a bilateral defense deal that would allow both nations to deploy troops to each other’s countries and pave the way to joint drills, among other defense cooperations.

The official go signal was announced during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s official visit to Manila on Friday, November 3.

“I also would like to recall our commitment to work on a framework for our status of visiting forces or the proposed Reciprocal Access Agreement, RAA, with Japan,” said Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a joint press briefing following a private meeting with Kishida and a bilateral meeting with top officials of both countries.

“We are cognizant of the benefits of having this arrangement, both to our defense and military personnel and to maintaining peace and stability in our region,” he added.

In a joint statement, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Marcos and Kishida “decided to commence negotiations on a reciprocal access agreement (RAA) between Japan and the Philippines.”

The start of negotiations marks a new chapter in the partnership of the two Asian countries. It also happens against the backdrop of China’s constant aggression in the South China Sea, particularly against Philippine vessels

Japan’s MOFA had earlier said it “opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force as well as any actions that increase tensions in the South China Sea” after Chinese and Philippine government vessels collided during a Philippine resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal in the volatile waters.

Japan has an RAA with only two other countries – Australia and the United Kingdom. Those two countries, like Japan, support the Philippines in its 2016 arbitral win against China.

Tokyo is seen as a major balancing force in tempering China’s growing aggression in the region.

“As leaders of like-minded states, we affirm our commitment to peaceful negotiations to resolve maritime conflicts and the need for a stable and secure environment, for mutually inclusive growth and development for our peoples,” said Marcos.

Japan, the Philippines, and the United States are also emerging as a trilateral force in the region.

Marcos recently met with Kishida and US Vice President Kamala Harris on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Jakarta back in September 2023.

Security assistance

During Kishida’s visit, the two leaders witnessed the signing of an Official Security Assistance grant aid deal from Japan to the Philippines worth 600 million yen, or around P235.5 million, for a “coastal radar system, which will improve the Philippine navy’s maritime domain awareness capabilities.”

Both Marcos and Kishida affirmed their countries’ commitment to other defense cooperation mechanisms, such as the bilateral Japan-Philippines and trilateral Japan-Philippines-US meetings at various levels, the Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”), the Vice-Ministerial Strategic Dialogue, the Political-Military (PM) Dialogue, and the Military to Military (MM) Dialogue.

The following deals were also signed during Kishida’s visit to Malacañang:

  • The Exchange of Notes concerning the provision of construction equipment for road network improvement/omplementation and disaster quick response operation under the Economic and Social Development Programme;
  • Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of tourism; and
  • Memorandum of Cooperation on mining sector between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan.

Kishida will be in Manila until Saturday, November 4. On his last day, he is set to address a special joint session of Congress, visit a Japan-funded subway project in Metro Manila, and visit the Philippine Coast Guard. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.