OLONGAPO CITY (UPDATE)—President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday visited Japan's largest military ship JS Kaga docked in Alava Wharf, Subic for a goodwill visit, as it seeks to promote “peace and stability” in the region.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. and other military officials accompanied the President.
Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Keitaro Ohno, Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda, and Japan’s Flotilla Commander, Rear Admiral Tatsuya Fukuda toured the Philippine delegates around the military ship.
JS Kaga is a helicopter carrier escorted by two other destroyers, JS Suzutsuki and JS Inazuma, comprising the Escort Flotilla Four of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The Japanese military vessels passed by the South China Sea from Japan to Alava Wharf in Subic.
“This deployment is in line with free and open Indo-Pacific strategy promoted by Japan,” Fukuda said in a press briefing.
“The goal is to enhance our operational capability and promote cooperation and interoperability with partner navies… Our initiatives support the other navy’s effort for regional maritime security and bolster the maritime order in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The Philippine Navy, led by Sealift Amphibious Force Commander, Commodore Antonio Palces welcomed the Japanese delegation consisting of 850 officers and crew.
“The visit of the 4th Flotilla of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense force is a good opportunity for us, navies, to enhance camaraderie, cooperation and naval diplomacy between navies,” Palces said.
“Our capability, we all know, compared to other navies in the region, we have lots of catching up to do,” he admitted, when asked about the Philippine Navy’s capabilities.
Local media toured JS Kaga, which has patrol helicopters on board, spacious cabins, and a sophisticated medical clinic.
The Philippine Navy said it will acquire warships similar to that of Japan under its modernization program.
“We will be acquiring submarines and that, in fact, is a major testament to the support of the President to the Philippine Navy, in making our capabilities, if not at par with our counterparts in the region, but more or less we will come near to where they are right now,” Palces said.
The military ships will stay in the country for five days, as Japanese and Philippine navies engage in a series of “confidence-building” activities. These include courtesy call, shipboard tour, lectures, reciprocal receptions and sports events.
The vessels will also port call at India, Indonesia, Singapore, and Sri Lanka in its two-month tour. --With a report from Trisha Mostoles, ABS-CBN News