Philippines, Japan to hold talks on VFA

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2015 02:34 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2015 10:34 PM

TOKYO (UPDATE) - The Philippines and Japan agreed to start discussions for a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that may allow Japanese forces to use Philippine bases to stop by or refuel on a rotational basis.

Answering a question from the Japan National Press Club, Aquino said that entering into a VFA with Japan was discussed in his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Thursday and that discussions would start to iron out the details.

Aquino said that such an agreement would have to be concurred in by the Senate just like what it did in the case of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States and its Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia.

An agreement with Japan becomes even more significant given the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. Japan itself is locked in a similar row with China over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

“It was discussed yesterday during our summit meeting with the Prime Minister that the relevant entities will start discussions, leading up to a Visiting Forces Agreement. Now, the Visiting Forces Agreement will have to be passed and approved by our Senate, and we will be starting discussions on all of the details embodied in this,” he said.

“We welcome this development. We have only two strategic partners, the US and Japan; and again, as I have stated previously, it does not behoove a good partnership or relationship if you are not able to work at the inoperability with the other. Agreements that even for humanitarian concerns that exist only in paper will not be effective when there comes a time that you would need to be in coordination, and in cooperation, or in joint cooperation with your strategic partner. So, yes, the Philippines does welcome this development and we will be initiating all of the diplomatic requirements to come up with a Visiting Forces Agreement.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday night, Aquino also said that the absence of a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan has first to be addressed before training exercises could be held in the Philippines.

“We have a Visiting Forces Agreement with America and with Australia, but we don’t have the same with Japan. That has, first, to be worked out before we can talk about training exercises in the Philippines, for instance, especially for self-defense forces,” he said.