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NSC: PH, Japan to sign Reciprocal Access Agreement before 2024 ends

MANILA, April 22 ------ The Philippines and Japan are expected to sign the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) before the end of 2024, an official from the National Security Council (NSC) said, a move seen to solidify the defense cooperation between the two maritime nations. The RAA which is quite similar to the United States’ Visiting Forces Agreement will serve as the guidelines for the entry and operation of Filipino troops in Japanese territory and vessels, and vice versa. 


“After the trilateral summit (in Washington DC), the Japanese Prime Minister and the President of the Philippines have given instructirs to our negotiators to proceed immediately,” NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in a news forum. “Kaya we are confident that before the end of this year will be signed,” he said. While “such agreements take time” the negotiations between Manila and Tokyo are “moving at a quick pace,” Malaya said.  


The Philippines first announced that it is planning to sign an RAA with Japan in November last year. Earlier this week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the RAA would be different from the VFA as Japanese troops are not expected to stay in the Philippines. “It’s not going to be as if it’s their base and they, their seamen will come down and will go into the city and go I don’t think that that’s a part of the agreement,” the Commander-in-Chief told reporters. “There aren’t any real conflicts in principle. It’s just a question of getting the language down and defining precisely how it’s going to work, the logistical systems and how that’s going to work,” he said. “It should not take very much longer. I think we’re very close to completion on that.” he added. 



Several countries are planning to ink similar military agreements with the Philippines to be able to send their troops to the country for joint cooperation and training exercises, Malaya said. “Ang dami-dami nang bansa na gustong pumirma ng Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Kahit na yung New Zealand gusto nang magkaroon ng exchanges ng military with us to strengthen our defenses,” he said. “They undersand that our position is important. We stand for the rule of law, a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added. 


Malaya declined to name which countries were working to establish military exchange programs with the Philippines, but noted that while there are Western and Asian countries on the list, none are in Southeast Asia. “Wala. These are countries outside of ASEAN [pero] mayroon within Asia,” he said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 


The Philippines needs to be “pragmatic” about expanding its military and defense ties beyond the region given ASEAN’s willingness to back the Philippines’ push against China’s expansionist agenda, said geopolitical analyst Don McLain Gill. “The nature of ASEAN reflects on national interest… Each ASEAN country has its own strategic culture,” he said, underscoring that several bloc members have close political and economic ties to China. ASEAN is a mixed basket of countries with different threat perceptions… Hindi collective ang interest ng ASEAN countries (ASEAN’s interests are not collective),” he said. “We have to expand our options because our issues are more acute compared to the issues being faced by other ASEAN countries,” he added. 


New Zealand PrimeMinister Christopher Luxon — who is in Manila for an official visit — said that Wellington is keen on finalizing a Mutual Logistics Supporting Arrangement (MLSA) with Manila before the end of 2024. In March, Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyar told President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that India is “very resolute” in honoring the validity of the 2016 arbitral award that invalidated China’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea. “If you want a country, which actually says will accept the judgement even if it goes against us, we are actually a natural candidate. So, we can be on your ship,” Jaishankar told Marcos Jr. 


New Delhi is more than willing to become a “charter member” of Manila’s efforts against Beijing’s incursions in the strategic waterway, the Indian minister said. Last year, French Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu said that Manila and Paris have agreed to forge closer defense cooperation, including the signing of a VFA to enable both countries to conduct joint military activities in their respective territories. 



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