Senators meet PM Kishida; PH thankful for Japan’s support in WPS, says Zubiri
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine senators on Wednesday held an audience with Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said, noting that Manila is thankful of Japan’s support on its claim over the West Philippine Sea.
Zubiri, who led the Senate delegation, said their visit comes at an opportune time when “the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan is evolving to even higher levels, as we adapt to the heightened global security situation, particularly the continuing maritime tensions, in our region.”
“On a daily basis, our Philippine Coast Guard records cases of harassment from foreign actors, which is depriving our country of its sovereign right to use its exclusive economic zone,” he said in a statement.
“That is why the Philippines is thankful for Japan’s strong support of the 2016 Arbitration Ruling and for providing us modern ships and other equipment such as radars to monitor our skies and seas,” Zubiri added.
Along with Zubiri, the delegation is composed of Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Deputy Majority Leader JV Ejercito, Senators Sonny Angara, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, Win Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, and Mark Villar.
“With almost half of the Senate here with us, we hope to show to you the importance that we accord to our strategic partnership,” he said.
In February, Zubiri also met with the Prime Minister, as part of the Philippine delegation headed by President Ferdinand Marcos during his official visit to Japan.
The Senate President said he was happy to report to Kishida that right after that visit, the Senate has given its concurrence to the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, which is expected to strengthen the trade and industry exchanges between the Philippines and Japan.
It was also during that February visit that Zubiri raised the need to explore a Philippines-Japan Visiting Forces Agreement.
“This visit, particularly the briefing from the Ministry of Defense, has given us a clearer understanding of the current defense and security realities facing both our nations,” he said.
“These meetings have also prompted us to act with greater urgency to support a possible Philippines-Japan Reciprocal Access Agreement that will boost the inter-operability of our armed forces,” Zubiri added.
In light of Kishida’s plans to make an official visit to the Philippines, Zubiri also extended an invitation for him to address the Senate and the House of Representatives in a joint session.
“We also are very glad to know that you will be making an official visit to the Philippines very soon. In this regard, on behalf of my chamber, I would like to make your visit more special and invite you to address both houses of Congress in a joint session if possible,” Zubiri said.