President Marcos, Kishida OK talks for security aid program

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
President Marcos, Kishida OK talks for security aid program
President Marcos welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Malacañang yesterday. Inset shows the visiting Japanese leader signing the guest book beside Marcos as Japanese First Lady Yuko Kishida and First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos look on.

Philippines, Japan working on military access deal

MANILA, Philippines — Japan has launched its first-ever overseas security assistance program, with the Philippines as the first recipient.

Details of the official security assistance (OSA) program will still have to be finalized, but it was officially launched with the exchange of notes last night witnessed by President Marcos and visiting Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Malacañang.

The two countries are also set to begin negotiations for a so-called reciprocal access agreement (RAA), which will serve as legal cover for the holding of military exercises and other security activities between the two countries.

An initial grant of 600 million yen (about P235 million) will be provided under the OSA, with the exchange of notes signed by Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko.

The RAA is similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement that the Philippines has with the United States and Australia. It will be the third RAA for Japan after similar arrangements with Australia and the United Kingdom went into force this year.

“This OSA will further enhance the military capacities of our countries, including the Philippines, which shares common security concerns with Japan,” Marcos said in a joint press conference with Kishida.

On the RAA, he said, “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.”

Kishida said Japan is deepening its security cooperation with the Philippines in light of the “increasingly severe and complex international situation.”

“We share the serious concerns about the situation in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. And that attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force is unacceptable.”

Under the OSA, Japan is providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines with a coastal surveillance radar system for the Navy, maritime

 patrol vessels along with other equipment that can promote safety and security in the South China Sea.

“Maritime domain awareness capability of the Philippines’ Department of National Defense will be enhanced,” Japanese Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs Noriyuki Shikata told The STAR in an interview yesterday.

Other candidate countries for Japan’s OSA are Malaysia, which Kishida will be visiting after his brief trip to the Philippines, as well as Bangladesh and Fiji, Shikata said.

“We think this will be conducive to our broader national security efforts,” he said. “We are doing this for defensive purposes and for regional stability.”

Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista, whose department has jurisdiction over the Philippine Coast Guard, said the government is considering the acquisition of five 97-meter patrol vessels for the PCG from Japan under concessional terms.

The five will be as large as the two biggest vessels of the PCG, Bautista told The STAR yesterday.

Shikata said the idea for an OSA, which is the security counterpart of Japan’s official development assistance, germinated within the past two years under Kishida’s leadership. Japan is the largest source of ODA for the Philippines.

The national security strategy of Japan under Kishida has evolved amid the emerging security environment that has become “more complex and challenging,” Shikata said, and the OSA “makes sense.”

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva cited the significance of Kishida’s visit in an interview with reporters via Zoom.

“Japan is here providing coastal radar systems and patrol vessels to the Philippines to bolster our surveillance capabilities. It’s starting now. In fact, they provided assistance, they sponsored our personnel’s trip for technical assistance and training. So that’s what we see. This is a big thing, especially with the challenges we are facing in WPS,” Villanueva said, referring to the West Philippine Sea.

“If you recall, in February of this year, the Japanese Prime Minister pledged to provide us roughly P250 billion in aid over the next two years,” Villanueva added.

Congress will convene in joint session today for Kishida’s address – the first ever by a Japanese prime minister before the Philippine Congress.

After his two-day visit to Manila, Kishida will fly to Malaysia.

In a post on X, the PM’s Office said Kishida’s visit to the Philippines and Malaysia and his meetings with the leaders of the two countries were aimed at “strengthening cooperation and deepening collaboration for the Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation in December this year.”

Like the Philippines, Japan also has a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

President Marcos undertook an official visit to Tokyo on Feb. 8-12 this year, sealing $13 billion worth of agreements seen to yield thousands of jobs for Filipinos. — Cecille Suerte Felipe

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