MANILA, Philippines – There’s no stopping the two Asian allies from consolidating their forces, as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both reaffirmed their strategic partnership.
In a bilateral meeting during the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit on Thursday, November 19, Aquino thanked Japan for its unrelenting support to the Philippines.
Aquino vowed the country would stick to the “deep” alliance between the two nations.
Abe said they are open to Aquino's request to provide large patrol vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard, the main agency tasked to secure the almost 40,000-km coastline of the country.
“There was a request from President Aquino regarding the provision of large patrol vessels to Philippine Coast Guard, and Japan would like to consider the specifics of the matter,” Abe added.
The two nations signed a Declaration for a Strengthened Strategic Partnership and its Action Plan in June, which was strongly condemned by China.
Both countries are among the claimants of some parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which China insists is entirely theirs.
“During our meeting, the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the deepening of the Strategic Partnership. In fact, we have taken a significant step forward in enhancing our defense and security relations,” Aquino said, referring to the agreement allowing transfer of military assets from Japan to the Philippines.
Both are pushing for the “early signing” of this measure, a move seen to beef up defense forces of the Philippines amid the sea row with China.
Japanese Deputy Press Secretary Koichi Mizushima said in a press conference that “a legal arrangement” is necessary before they share technologies with other countries.
“With the understanding that the progress of Japan, the Philippines, and all other nations in the region are founded on peace and stability, we likewise took the opportunity to discuss the security challenges that confront both our nations, and pledged to cooperate in advancing our shared advocacy for members of the international community to act responsibly,” Aquino said.
While Aquino made no mention of the South China Sea, Abe directly declared Japan’s strong opposition to China’s actions.
“President [Aquino] and I had a candid exchange on regional peace and stability. We share deep concerns over unilateral actions to change the status quo such as large-scale land reclamation and building of outposts in the South China Sea,” Abe said. – Rappler.com
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org