Marcos Jr. says Japan wants more patrols in South China Sea to 'assure freedom of passage'

Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2023 08:11 PM | Updated as of Feb 09 2023 12:49 PM

Rolando Mailo, PNA
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. lays down the agenda of his Official Visit to Tokyo, Japan during the send-off ceremonies at the Maharlika Hall in Villamor Airbase (VAB), Pasay City on Wednesday February 8, 2023. Rolando Mailo, PNA

TOKYO — Japan is supporting the improvements in the capacity of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) because it wants to assure the “freedom of passage” in the contested South China Sea, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Wednesday.

In a media interview en route to Tokyo, Japan, the President said Japan’s cooperation with the Philippines in developing the PCG “has been ongoing."

“Actually binibigyan nila tayo ng coast guard vessels… Siguro sa kanilang palagay, the next step is do the improvements, rehabilitation sa Subic,” Marcos Jr. said.

Some Japanese officials earlier said that their government was eyeing to develop a "Subic Bay Support Base."

This would be tackled with President Marcos during his meeting with the top leaders of Japan during his 5-day official working visit.

“Para sa Coast Guard kasi naturally the reason behind all these is they want to have more patrols up and down the South China Sea para we can assure that the freedom of passage,” the President noted.

Asked if the two countries are poised to embark on an agreement similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, the President said it has not been discussed with Japan.

VFA is a security agreement which paves the way for foreign troops to have wider access to military bases in the Philippines and to hold joint military drills and exercises with Filipino soldiers.

“So iyong VFA equivalent hindi pa namin talaga napapag-usapan formally iyan. I don't know if the Prime Minister will take it up with me in this trip. But so far, there could not have been any formal proposals on that regard,” the President said

On the other hand, in a very short answer to the media while disembarking the Presidential plane, Defense Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. confirmed that a defense and security agreement with Japan is possible in the near future.

“Malapit na,” he answered when asked if there would be a VFA-like cooperation between Philippines and Japan.

Marcos noted that discussing security and defense cooperation with Japan is “a new element” in the relationship of the two countries.

“That is a new area because ang dealings natin with Japan has always been G to G [government to government], JICA aid grant level and of course the commercial side. So this is a new element in our relationship because we are now talking about security of the region. We of course are interested in the same thing, eyeing security in the region. I think cooperation is not a bad thing,” Marcos said.


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