Japan PM Kishida pushes for ‘free, open Indo-Pacific’ in visit to PH
MANILA, Philippines — Having and maintaining a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ (FOIP) will be key to the stability of the region and ensuring that people live with dignity, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday.
Kishida, who addressed the Philippine Congress in a joint special session, said that Japan has helped the Philippines ensure peace and prosperity as they believe it is interconnected to the principle of an FOIP.
He said he discussed this concept in different fora, including his recent meetings with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. The prime minister is in the Philippines for a two-day visit.
“In order for everyone to live with dignity, it is essential to build a peaceful and stable world. From this standpoint, I confirmed with President Marcos during his visit to Japan in February that we would work together to maintain and strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law,” Kishida said in his speech.
“There are ‘four pillars’ in the new FOIP plan. The first of these pillars is to uphold ‘principles for peace and rules for prosperity.’ This is the idea of building ‘peace’ by confirming and promoting the basic principles that the international community should uphold,” he added.
According to Kishida, one example of how they executed this plan of upholding peace to ensure an FOIP is its support for the peace process and the development of Mindanao.
“For example, stability in the Mindanao region is linked to peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. From this perspective, Japan has supported the peace process and economic development over the past two decades,” Kishida explained.
“We just announced yesterday in our meeting with President Marcos, the provision of heavy equipment for disaster management in Mindanao. This cooperation is based on the vision of the FOIP,” he added.
The Indo-Pacific is an area covering the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, stretching from the eastern coast of India towards Southeast Asia, north of Australia, and then west of the Philippines.
Considered one of the world’s largest maritime and shipping routes, several countries have strived to maintain peace and order in the Indo-Pacific region, asking other countries to observe the right of innocent passage and freedom of navigation.
However, there have been concerns raised over the stability of the said area, as China’s actions against Philippine vessels inside the Philippine exclusive economic zone were seen as aggressive.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner said defense officials of other countries were shocked with China’s water cannon attack against a supply ship over Ayungin Shoal, where Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre is beached.
Cooperation, reciprocal access agreement
Kishida also assured that the trilateral cooperation — between Japan, the Philippines, and the United States (US) — towards protecting freedom of navigation over the South China Sea is underway.
He also noted that he and Marcos have agreed to commence formal talks on the reciprocal access agreement (RAA), which will further deepen strategic cooperation between the Philippines and Japan.
“In the South China Sea, the trilateral cooperation to protect the freedom of the sea is underway. In addition to the participation of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in the joint US-Philippines exercises held last month, the first joint exercise by the coast guard agencies of the three countries was held in June this year. Through these efforts, let us protect the maritime order, which is governed by laws and rules, not by force.
“Furthermore, we concurred with President Marcos to commence formal negotiations on a Japan-Philippines reciprocal access agreement. Japan intends to further deepen strategic cooperation with the Philippines in the future,” Kishida said.
Earlier, the House and the Senate held a special joint session at the Batasan Complex on Saturday to welcome and hear Kishida’s address.
Currently, both chambers of Congress are on a break as the session adjourned last September 30. The regular session will officially resume on Monday, November 6.
The session was presided by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Meanwhile, Kishida’s address would mark the fifth time that the Philippine legislature will accord an honor to a visiting foreign leader.