MANILA - President Benigno Aquino doesn't see the Philippines and Japan forging an agreement soon similar to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that Manila has with the United States.
This, after Aquino did not oppose Japan's moves to amend its Constitution to allow it to exercise its right of collective self-defense amid rising tensions over maritime disputes in Asia.
The Philippines and Japan have separate disputes with China -- Japan over the Senkaku Islands and the Philippines over the Spratly islands and some parts of the West Philippine Sea.
Speaking on board the presidential flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima, Aquino was asked about the possibility of an EDCA-like agreement with Japan. EDCA allows the US to have greater access to Philippine bases.
“Not necessarily. But siguro parang ang pinaka-importante—as usual—we only have two strategic partners and we’re… ‘Yung they both come to our aid, especially ‘pag ‘yung may humanitarian issues," Aquino said. "They are the two most rapid in terms of coming to our assistance, then there’s no interoperability."
"The results of all of these cumulative efforts could redound to our peoples’ benefit: quicker, more efficient, more lives helped, saved," he said. "If iyung we have interoperability and we know each other’s systems, we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we have those practices with the Americans, mas sporadic with the Japanese. Since they are our only two strategic partners, doesn’t it behoove us to have, ‘di ba, parang more coordination with these two strategic partners?"
Aquino informed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the situation regarding Manila's maritime dispute with Beijing, including the arbitration case that the Philippines has filed against China.
”Well, ina-update nila tayo doon sa mga incidents involving planes. We updated them naman, for instance, with regards to the Ayungin Shoal, ‘yung ating replenishment efforts. We showed them the pictures of Mabini [Reef]," he said.
"We both agree that there -- and even actually even China, 'di ba -- also publicly states that we should all adhere to international law," Aquino said. "We were pressing for the DOC's (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) full implementation, full compliance with the same, pero more importantly na—sana, ano—ASEAN and China get to finish the COC (Code of Conduct)."
"We also told them that we’re moving, na there should be a cessation of incidents that tend to promote tension within the disputed waters. We also told them that we’re talking with our ASEAN brethren, especially the four [claimants]—well, three claimant countries besides us to… And then, leading up to a meeting with China para may common na stand," the President said. "And of course, ‘yung full and final resolution using a peaceful settlement mechanism and other international laws to resolve all of these.”
Aquino explained his support for the Abe government’s decision to look at amending the Japanese Constitution.
Tokyo's pacifist Constitution bars its government from exercising military might unless in matters of self-defense.
“Prime Minister Abe himself has said that their Constitution—and other Japanese officials— they said that if there is a convoy of allied ships and they are part of it, and one of the ships in the convoy gets attacked, their Constitution, the interpretation right now says they cannot come to the rescue or to the assistance of that ship," he said. "In our context, we were both in the Golan Heights; we’ve had at least three incidents already affecting our peacekeepers. If there comes a time that we would need help from the other contingents within the forces of the UN (United Nations) in the Golan Heights, they would not have been in the position to assist."
"They're revisiting it to allow them to be able to do so, redounds to the benefit of all of their partners, especially in this international peacekeeping efforts. So, in a sense, sa atin, very real that there was an instance already that we conceivably could have needed their assistance and they would not have been able to," Aquino said. "So, in that sense, we welcome their revisiting it to enable them to meet their international commitments more completely and, ‘di ba, and redounds to our benefit."
"I also mentioned in the speech to remember, especially after World War II in the 1950s, our relationship with them has been talagang very beneficial. They have been very supportive. They have been a constant, so we don’t have this reaction that it is a negative move on their part, but rather we view it as positive," he added.
Aquino and Abe met in Japan Tuesday during the Philippine leader's one-day working visit.
Aquino left accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Andrea Abad, and Presidential Protocol chief Celia Anna Feria.
"The meeting between President Aquino and Prime Minister Abe is envisioned to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan in many areas, including maritime cooperation, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, as well as trade and investments,” Ochoa said in Manila. “Japan is an important friend and ally of our country.”