MANILA — The Department of National Defense on Monday backed the proposal of some senators for a visiting forces agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and Japan.
The 2 countries "have had a defense cooperation", under which they train military students or observers during exercises like the Balikatan, said DND officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr.
"Japan and the Philippines would like to have a VFA in order for the Japanese troops to conduct exercises in the Philippines," Faustino said on the sidelines of DND's 83rd founding anniversary celebration.
"We share common interest with Japan particularly in our interest in the West Philippine Sea and of course the borders that we share with Japan, so our goal really is to strengthen this cooperation, the defense cooperation with Japan," he added.
Faustino said the possible VFA with Japan would not be a showcase of the Philippines' position in the West Philippine Sea, parts of which are claimed by China.
"You know the agreements that we conduct with other countries, with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the US, this is not directed towards another country. It's a multilateral, bilateral... relationship. These are like-minded countries and we'd like to maintain that these are our allies," said the official.
"Anything that we do, of course, we do it based on our national interest, we forge partnerships with other countries," he continued.
Faustino also refuted claims that the US would build facilities inside Philippine military bases.
"I would like to correct that, we are not building bases... The constitution especially states that foreign military bases [are] not allowed in the Philippines. What we have are EDCA sites, this is Enhanced Defense Cooperation [Agreement] sites that we use for training facilities and warehouses," he said.
Sealed in 2014 under the administration of the late Benigno Aquino III, the EDCA allows US forces access to 5 Philippine bases to help counterbalance growing Chinese presence in the South China Sea.
"For the next 2 years the concentration will be on the completion of the [EDCA] projects. During the MDB (mutual defense board) held in Hawaii, there were some additional EDCA sites being considered but it still has to go though a process," Faustino said.
"Of course, we have to consider some constitution provisions, some of our national laws before we could go into that, so right now we'll just, we forwarded to the DFA their comments regarding the additional sites," he added.
Faustino stressed that these EDCA sites only function as operations centers for trainings, and not for controversial purposes like nuclear energy or anything that could cause mass destruction.
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