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Marcos: PH, Japan agree to swiftly finalize visiting forces deal

Metro Manila, December 24 ------ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have agreed to swiftly conclude the discussions on the proposed Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) between Manila and Tokyo, after the two countries opened talks in November. The proposed RAA is similar to a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in that it allows troops from one country to freely visit another temporarily. 


Japan shares RAAs with Australia and the United Kingdom. The Philippines has a VFA with the United States and a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) with Australia. “I think both Prime Minister [Kishida] and I agree, ASAP lahat ito as soon as possible,” Marcos said at the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo on Monday. 


The Philippines has been eyeing a visiting forces deal with Japan since 2022. Manila’s negotiating team for the talks left for Tokyo last month. “This is one of the products of that. We also have the same kind of negotiations or discussions with many other countries. We’ll continue to do that para maraming tumutulong sa atin, sa problemang hinaharap natin sa South China Sea,” Marcos said. 


On top of its existing visiting forces deals, the Philippines is looking to establish a new SOVFA with France. Manila’s proposed defense deal with Tokyo comes in the midst of heightened tension in the South China Sea due to Beijing’s rapidly escalating aggression against Filipino vessels. Last week, China’s ships blasted Filipino vessels with a water cannon, employed dangerous maneuvers resulting in near-collisions, and even deployed a sound cannon which caused severe discomfort to local crew members. 


With this in mind, Marcos said the proposed deal had to be made with care so as not to escalate tension. “Of course, we’re exerting all efforts now but it’s the we have to be very careful that we do not overreact, that we do not make mistakes that might be misinterpreted by anyone,” Marcos told reporters. “Kailangan talaga maingat tayo dahil pag may nangyari ulit diyan [We need to be careful because if something happens again] if we heightened the tensions, it won’t lead us to a good result. So we are being very circumspect in the actions that we will take,” he said. 


Marcos also said there was no need to expel Huwang Xilian, the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, despite the calls from lawmakers. 



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