MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday said he was open to the idea of the Philippines having a "tripartite agreement" with its close allies Japan and the United States if it would not provoke tensions in the South China Sea.
Marcos told reporters aboard the presidential plane en route to Manila that he had Filipino fisherfolk in mind when considering the military deal with Washington and Tokyo.
"Ang iniisip ko lang iyong ating fishermen kailangan maprotektahan, kailangan maliwanag na tayo sa Pilipinas na we are patrolling our waters and be sure it is well recognized na iyan ang talagang maritime territory ng Pilipinas iyan, that is the intent," he said after a 5-day visit to Tokyo.
(I am only thinking of our fishermen who need to be protected, it should be clear that we are patrolling our waters and be sure it is well recognized that that is the maritime territory of the Philippines.)
"If we can achieve that, if it is appropriate, if it does not constitute the danger of increasing tensions, then it might be useful for the Philippines," he added.
However, Marcos clarified that the agreement had only been "proposed in principle," with its details yet to be finalized.
The President said he has yet to discuss details on the deal with American and Japanese leaders, particularly on the roles each country's military would play.
He also said that if the tripartite agreement becomes a reality, it would not be a defense alliance similar to the NATO or North Atlantic Treaty Organization, whose member states are from Europe and North America.
"Europe is different from Southeast Asia, so maybe not quite like NATO, but siyempre it looks like we are strengthening our partnerships," he said.
The discussion of a tripartite military deal between the 3 countries comes as the Philippine Coast Guard reported another encounter with China in the West Philippine Sea.
This, after a Chinese Coast Guard vessel directed a military-grade laser light at PCG's BRP Malapascua while it was supporting a rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy in Ayungin Shoal.
The President also said that the new locations for the joint military facilities of the Philippines and United States in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) have not yet been finalized.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Bartolome Bacarro earlier said that the United States was looking at Cagayan, Isabela, Zambales and Palawan as possible locations for the additional military facilities.
"Pinag-aaralan natin, malapit na iyan. I think when I get back I will have a command conference and we will decide once and for all, and we will announce but I don't think it will take too long," the President said.
(We are studying that, it will be soon.)
Marcos stressed that the government would be careful that these facilities won't cause tensions in the South China Sea.
"Iyon din, lagi kong iniisip iyon kasi nga lagi natin nagsasabi na gusto natin na mapayapa, hindi magulo at may safe passage ang ano. Eh kung tayo ang gagawa ng... we will instigate and increase the tensions, eh iyon talaga ang dapat iwasan," he explained.
(I am always thinking of that because we always safe that we want peace and safe passage. But if we are the ones who will instigate and increase the tensions, that should be avoided.)