Japanese parliamentarians laud PH’s latest defense pact with US
MANILA, Philippines—Sharing the Philippines’ concern for stability in the Asia-Pacific, visiting Japanese parliamentarians have expressed support for the country’s arbitration bid against China over disputes in the South China Sea and Manila’s newest defense agreement with Washington D.C.
Kenji Kosaka, president of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship League (JPPFL), said on Tuesday that his group of parliamentarians, all members of the Japan’ ruling Liberal Democratic Party, were fully supportive of recent developments in the Philippines related to maintaining regional peace and security.
“…[T]he Chinese government has been insistent on the bilateral negotiation. However, this arbitration process is based on international law. We shall support the stance of the [Philippine] government… As well as our association (JPPFL), we have expressed our support,” Kosaka said in a briefing with select reporters Tuesday morning.
He made the statement following his four-member delegation’s separate meetings with President Aquino and Senate President Franklin Drilon, where the Philippine side briefed the Japanese group of recent developments, including the continuing response in the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda, the Bangsamoro peace agreement, and regional security issues.
Kosaka showed a map of China’s nine-dash line and the Philippine claim that President Benigno Aquino III furnished his group during a meeting in Malacañang Tuesday morning. The delegation from Japan’ National Diet were here on a five-day visit, meeting President Aquino and attending opening sessions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“There are many Filipinos visiting mainland China [and vice-versa]. That is perhaps the other side of the relationship. So there has been no reason [or] benefit for both countries to fight each other,” Kosaka said, speaking through an interpreter.
“However, not only through bilateral but also multilateral discussions or under international law, we should be able to solve these issues, these maritime territorial issues,” he said.
The Philippines initiated an arbitration process against China in January 2013 in hopes of clarifying maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, nullifying China’s nine-dash line claim and protecting the country’s exclusive economic zone (called locally as the West Philippine Sea) against Chinese incursions.
China has refused to participate in the process, insisting on its sovereignty over the waters, 90 percent of which is encompassed within the nine-dash line.
Japan is facing a parallel dispute with China in the East China Sea, with Beijing laying claim to Japanese-controlled Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands.
It has protested China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone, just as the Philippines has rejected a Chinese fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to seek its permission to fish and explore in the South China Sea.
The Japanese lawmakers also welcomed the Philippines’ latest defense pact with the United States — as much an ally of Manila as it is of Tokyo—as they noted its positive impact on regional stability.
“We are fully supportive of EDCA,” said parliamentarian Taku Otsuka.
“We strongly believe that it will contribute to the stability of the region, so we support it,” said Kosaka.
The agreement, signed on May 28 just a few hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama for a two-day state visit here, would allow US troops to use and establish installations in Philippine military bases.
EDCA is being criticized for allegedly being railroaded in time for the Obama visit and for the lack of consultations with Congress.
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