Planned VFA between Japan and Philippines will help Manila assert claims in West Philippine Sea
A planned Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Japan and the Philippines will help the country assert its territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea and improve its disaster response, Senator Francis Tolentino said.
Earlier during a working visit in Japan, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said that a VFA between the two countries was a “work in progress”.
In a dzBB interview on Sunday, Tolentino said the Senate needs to ratify the VFA with Japan like the previous ones with the United States and Status of Visiting Forces with Australia (SOVFA).
“This needs to be ratified in the Senate because it already has a precedent. Not just the VFA but also the Status of the Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia.
“(Just like the SOVFA), the Senate needs to make a resolution on this. And in that resolution, it should state the responsibilities of each country. What Japan should be accountable for, if ever. And it should also indicate that the law of the Republic of the Philippines will prevail.
Tolentino, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Committee on Defense and Security, said having joint patrols will also deter China and other countries encroaching Philippine territory.
“For us not to be bully by other countries, like China, we need to show that we have the capacity to defend ourselves. If we have a joint patrol, we will be able to save money instead of spending on vessels to increase the capacity of our navy. We can use it instead for agriculture or for other needs. So the other countries who will dare to push us around will be deterred because we have a partner in the joint patrol,” he said.
According to Tolentino, if the VFA with Japan will be ratified, it will also enhance the country’s disaster response.
“Japan’s (disaster) response is excellent, especially when it comes to earthquakes. Mindanao is often hit by earthquakes, so they can be of help there,” Tolentino said.
Tolentino said there are no agreed locations yet for the VFA with Japan and unless they have a quad agreement together with the US and Australia, they will have different locations.
“What will happen now is that there will be a separate agreed location for Japan. Japan has its own capacity to establish its own location. We will also guard the location with the joint security there. And whatever the structure that they set up there, they will leave it there. They will not bring it with them. All of this will be temporary and done in accordance with the Constitution,” he said.
Asked how the Philippines should handle China’s opposition to the additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites, Tolentino said the country should be free to improve its defense posture.
“If they (China) truly respect the sovereignty of the Philippines, then they should not prevent a free country like the Philippines from taking the right measures to increase our own defense posture and our own rights. If they really do not have bad intentions, they shouldn’t react. Instead, they should see this as another way to really have freedom of navigation, to let fishermen catch fish freely, and to implement the right trade treaty,” he said.
“So if they really believe that we are their friends, they shouldn’t be afraid. We are just doing this to strengthen our defense and the security of the whole region,” he added.
There are five EDCA sites in the country including Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.
Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the four additional EDCA sites have yet to be announced. Jaspearl Tan/DMS