President Marcos on Friday welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to the Philippines and expressed his desire to further strengthen bilateral relations with Japan in the wake of China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea. He said that the Filipino people are grateful for the support extended by the Japanese to the Philippines.
“Excellency, please bring home this message to the Japanese people, that for their support, the Filipino people are grateful. Let us renew our commitment to sustaining the vigor of this relationship in its prime,” Marcos said, as he thanked Japan for the transfer of the first air surveillance radar system to the Philippines.
Kishida said Japan will continue to help improve the Philippines’ security capabilities through its new cooperation framework, the Official Security Assistance (OSA), which is seen contributing to regional peace and stability. He said Japan agreed to provide the Philippines with coastal surveillance radars to help boost its deterrence capabilities, adding that the radar system is the first cooperation project in the world under Japan’s OSA program.
The two leaders announced that they will begin talks to forge a reciprocal access agreement (RAA), a pact that provides the legal framework for greater bilateral security cooperation, which would allow both nations to hold joint military drills for the first time on Philippine shores.
“We are cognizant of the benefits of having this arrangement both to our defense and military personnel and to maintaining peace and stability in our region,” Marcos said.
In the first ever speech to the Philippine Congress by a Japanese prime minister, Kishida on Saturday said the Philippines, which has the second largest population in Asean and has over 300,000 citizens living in Japan, “is an irreplaceable partner for Japan. I am deeply honored to have had the opportunity to address this traditional parliament, becoming the first Prime Minister of Japan to do so.”
“In 1977, then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda gave a speech in Manila in the presence of President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr. I recall that former Prime Minister Fukuda expressed his intention to build a relationship of trust and heart-to-heart contact with Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, as equal partners,” he said.
“About half a century has passed since then. Exchanges between Japan and the Philippines have deepened, and the relationship between the two countries is now stronger than ever. However, looking back at history, the relationship between the two countries has not always been smooth sailing. We cannot forget that it was the efforts of our predecessors based on a spirit of tolerance, such as President Quirino’s pardon of Japanese war criminals in 1953, which enabled us to overcome difficult times,” Kishida said, adding that bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines are now at a “golden age.”
Underscoring Japan’s unwavering commitment to the Philippines in matters of security and defense cooperation, Kishida announced Japan’s donation of 12 ships to the Philippine Coast Guard, on top of the delivery of a warning and control radar system to the Philippine Air Force.
Kishida also emphasized Japan’s “renewed commitment” to upholding a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), stressing the significance of extending efforts for the security and safe utilization of both sea and air in the FOIP framework.
Giving prominence to the defense cooperation between Japan, the United States, and the Philippines, he said a multi-layered cooperation among allies and like-minded countries is important to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law.
“In September, the three of us had our first exchange of views with President Marcos and US Vice President Harris, and we were able to confirm the strengthening of our cooperation. In the West Philippine Sea, cooperation among the three countries is progressing to protect free seas,” Kishida said, adding that it is necessary to strengthen security cooperation among Japan, the Philippines and the United States because the international order based on the rule of law is currently in grave danger.