AFP welcomes Philippines' plan to create VFA with Japan

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2023 02:18 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2023 06:29 PM

Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) troops attend a military parade at the Ground Self Defense Force's Asaka training ground in Asaka, near Tokyo, Japan, on Oct. 14, 2018. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE/FILE
Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) troops attend a military parade at the Ground Self Defense Force's Asaka training ground in Asaka, near Tokyo, Japan, on Oct. 14, 2018. Franck Robichon, EPA-EFE/FILE

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday welcomed the Philippines’ plan to allow Japan’s troops to hold exercises and exchanges with Filipino soldiers through an agreement similar to the country’s Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States.

During President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s visit to Japan, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said that Manila and Tokyo were in the “general direction” of crafting a pact like the VFA.

“It will be to the advantage of the AFP,” said Col. Medel Aguilar, spokesperson of the AFP.

“We will know more about their technology, hopefully acquire some of it, and be able to establish that capability that we need to protect what rightfully belongs to us,” he told ABS-CBN News in a text message when sought for comment.

The plan to forge closer defense ties with Japan “is in consonance to the foreign policy of our President… to be friend to all, and enemy to no one,” he added.

Aguilar said that if discussions about the possible pact prosper, Manila and Tokyo may soon begin outlining the fine print of the agreement.

“If there’s already an agreement at the top level, what follows will be the discussion of its mechanics and details at the operational level later,” he said.

The plan comes as Malacañang announced that Marcos Jr. was also mulling to craft a “tripartite agreement with long-time allies US and Japan.”

“The chief executive said this is part of a ‘continuing and ongoing’ process to make more ‘solid partnerships and alliances that we are beginning to put together in our areas,’” a statement from the Presidential Communications Office read.

“President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida earlier agreed to bolster Manila and Tokyo’s defense and security relations… to ‘increase the defense capabilities of their own countries, and further strengthen overall security cooperation,’” it read.

But House Deputy Minority leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro slammed both defense proposals, saying it “runs counter to the supposed independent foreign policy of the Marcos administration.”

"With this type of foreign policy the Philippines would further become a magnet for attacks and further imperil the Filipino people,” Castro said in a statement.

“Isa pa, parang Espanya na lang ang kulang ay kumpleto na ang mga sumakop sa Pilipinas sa mga mga VFA sa bansa," she said.

Japan occupied the Philippines during the second World War, with its troops committing several atrocities including the killing and raping for Filipino women.

After the war, the Philippines signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which in effect legally settled issues of reparations for war damage.

In 1956, Manila and Tokyo forged a Reparations Agreement, wherein the Philippines agreed to receive some $550 million in services and goods as compensation for the victims of World War II in the country.

In 2003, the Philippine Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a group of Filipino comfort women that sought a public apology and additional compensation from the Japanese government.

Castro said it would be better if the Marcos administration crafted defense deals with countries whose soldiers did not commit crimes against Filipinos.

"Mas maganda kung ang mga pinapasok na agreements ng Pilipinas ay yung mga walang strings attached at di maglalagay sa panganib sa mga Filipino,” she said, alleging that the VFA with the United States protected the American soldier who killed Filipina transgender Jennifer Laude.

“Dapat tutulan ang ganitong mga tipong kasunduan at mas tumindig tayo sa sarili nating paa na gamit ang mga international na batas," she said.