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Senate eyes ratifying proposed PH-Japan military access deal in 2024

Metro Manila, November 12 ------ The Senate said it hopes to approve the proposed Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) between the Philippines and Japan next year. “We are looking at a timeline of a year, less than a year siguro (maybe). Maybe by the first half of next year they can take this to the Senate and we can already ratify,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

During Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's visit to the Philippines last week, he and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. disclosed that Manila and Tokyo have started negotiating for the establishment of an RAA. This will be similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that will allow troops of one country to freely visit another temporarily. In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Monday, Japan's Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs Noriyuki Shikata said security ties between Japan and the Philippines will include providing radar systems for coastal surveillance. Shikata added that the Philippines will become the third country for Japan to conclude an RAA following its previous agreement with the United Kingdom and Australia.

Department of National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said his agency was given authority to negotiate the proposed RAA. “We hope to be able to ink the agreement at the soonest possible time and submit this to the Philippines Senate and the Japanese legislature for concurrence,” he said at a press conference on Monday. Some groups have protested against the RAA, saying this will "degrade" the Philippines’ sovereignty and further escalate tensions in the region. Zubiri emphasized the purpose of the agreement is the interoperability and cross training between the two nations’ troops. No sites similar to those for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will be established, he said. The RAA will serve as a framework to ensure the military from both countries follow each other’s laws, he said. “I think one of the most disciplined armies in the world is the self-defense forces of Japan,” he added. “I don’t think we will have a problem with them when it comes to violations of our law.”

Teodoro, who is optimistic about the VFA-like deal, said it would help enforce rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific. “I think we look forward to this RAA between both our countries given the commitment of the Japanese government and the Philippines government to preserve rules-based international order and international law, UNCLOS,” Teodoro said. “We really do have shared interests and values. We look forward to the completion of all steps,” the defense chief added.

US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Ewing also said Washington was in favor of the proposed RAA. “The Philippines and Japan are two of our closest allies in this region and the world…Therefore, we welcome increased trilateral cooperation and I think it’s only natural. In a statement, Gabriela Secretary-General Clarice Palce slammed Zubiri, saying that he should not ignore the fact that there were women abused under the VFA with the US, what more now with the RAA. "We remind Senate President Zubiri that the Japanese army that they are welcoming is the same Japanese army that built a comfort station and raped thousands of women during World War II here in the Philippines and other countries they conquered. Neither ever acknowledged and apologized for the murders, mass rapes, and other atrocities against Filipino women, Yan ba ang disiplinado? (Is that what you call disciplined?" she asked.

The senator said the crafting of the deal will be easier since the Philippines will just use the RAA of Japan with the United Kingdom and Australia as a template. Zubiri said he needs 16 senators to vote in favor of the RAA and he believes he has more than that.



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