#AnimatED: Manila, Tokyo elevate ties
For the first time in 13 years, a Philippine president made a state visit to Japan, signifying a high point in the steadfast relations of the 2 countries.
Last week (June 3 to 5), President Aquino addressed the National Diet, held a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and was awarded by the Imperial family the highest honor given to outstanding individuals by the Japanese monarchy.
Aquino and Abe, as if ascending a carefully designed ladder, signed a “Strengthened Strategic Partnership,” moving up from the 2011 “Strategic Partnership." The highlight of the 2015 Partnership is an agreement to expand security cooperation primarily through the “transfer of defense equipment and technology” and more frequent joint training exercises, all aimed at maritime safety. (Japan and the US are the only 2 strategic partners of the Philippines.)
For starters, Manila will buy a fleet of 10 patrol vessels for the Coast Guard, aided by a $150-million low-interest loan from Tokyo. This marks an important shift in Japan’s foreign aid dedicated to infrastructure to boost the Philippine economy. Japanese media reported that Manila may also buy anti-submarine patrol aircraft from Japan.
Furthermore, President Aquino announced that the Philippines will begin talks on a visiting forces agreement with Japan. The accord would allow Japanese military aircraft and naval vessels to refuel in the Philippines.
“…it does not behoove a good partnership or relationship if you are not able to work at the inoperability with the other. Agreements even for humanitarian concerns that exist only in paper will not be effective when there comes a time that you would need to be in coordination… or joint cooperation with your strategic partner,” Aquino said.
In the 59-year history of the 2 countries’ relations, this is the closest that the Philippines and Japan have ever been, further united by an aggressive China.
Aquino and Abe have consistently aired their ire at China’s massive land reclamation in the South China Sea. In a statement issued after their summit, both leaders again "share[d] serious concern on unilateral actions to change the status quo in the South China Sea including large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts in violation of a 2002 regional agreement.”
This tightening of ties comes at a sensitive time for Japan which is moving to reinterpret its pacifist Constitution. The Philippines is a vocal supporter of a security policy that would allow Japan to “play a more pro-active role in securing peace” in the region, as Aquino said in his remarks before the Japan National Press Club, and “…come to the aid of those in need, especially in the area of collective self-defense.”
What is good to note is that the strengthening of security relations does not come at the expense of economic and humanitarian programs. Japan remains committed to peace in Mindanao – it is a key member of the International Contact Group that sits in negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – and to uplifting our capacity to prepare for disasters.
It is hard to forget the 1,200-strong Japan Self Defense Forces, its largest overseas deployment to a single country, in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. It was also the biggest humanitarian relief operation ever in the history of Japan.
In 2004, the Japan International Cooperation Agency conducted a massive study on the impact of an earthquake in Metro Manila.
Our relations have emerged from the dark and haunting memories of the brutal Japanese occupation, memories that devoured us and shaped negative perceptions of our neighbor. We have since found common causes—and China’s blatant assertiveness is only the latest of these. – Rappler.com