Congress leaders vow support to military deal with Japan | Global News

Congress leaders vow support to military deal with Japan

‘HONORED FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY’ Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Speaker Martin Romualdez applaud as visiting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida makes a point in a speech before a joint special session of Congress on Saturday. Kishida was the sixth foreign head of state and the first Japanese leader to address the Philippine legislature. —LYN RILLON

‘HONORED FOR THIS OPPORTUNITY’ Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Speaker Martin Romualdez applaud as visiting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida makes a point in a speech before a joint special session of Congress on Saturday. Kishida was the sixth foreign head of state and the first Japanese leader to address the Philippine legislature. —LYN RILLON

Speaker Martin Romualdez and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Saturday that they were “very happy” that the negotiations for the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) between Japan and the Philippines would start soon and pledged full support for its ratification.

Speaking to reporters after Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s address to a joint session of Congress, Zubiri said he will push for the RAA in the Senate, which ratifies all treaties entered into by the Philippines.


He said the senators were “ready to tackle” the proposed RAA, which aims to simplify the procedures for visits by troops from Japan to the Philippines and vice versa.


The RAA expands the different activities that visiting forces can engage in and establishes a framework on how to resolve any issue arising from their visits.

It is very similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States and the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) between the Philippines and Australia. “We need more than 16 votes, I believe we have more than that to ratify the RAA in the Senate,” Zubiri said.

He said an RAA between Japan and the Philippines will allow both nations to boost their interoperability and cross training of both its navy and coast guard forces—members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) in the Philippines and Filipino troops in Japan.

Makabayan objection

President Marcos and Kishida, who arrived in Manila on Friday for a two-day visit, agreed to start the negotiations following their meeting.

Two Makabayan lawmakers said on Saturday that they would block the RAA, citing Japan’s refusal to apologize to Filipino comfort women who suffered sexual slavery under Japanese forces during World War II and the possibility of more human rights violations, particularly against Filipino women.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said Japan’s failure to acknowledge the suffering and abuse experienced by Filipino comfort women “says a lot about how they view human rights.”


“The brutality and violence faced by comfort women must serve as a wake-up call for President Marcos to reconsider its stance and refuse a military agreement with Japan,” she said.

Brosas said the Philippine government “must actively assist and support them in their fight for justice instead of getting cozy with Japan for the sake of military and security deals.”

Without even apologizing for their atrocities during World War II against comfort women, the Japanese are again planning to send their forces back to the Philippines, said ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, the House deputy minority leader.

“Our country is becoming a military training ground for industrialized nations while at the same time endangering our population and they are just giving us scraps of their military hardware,” she said.

‘Very disciplined’

Castro said the Philippines should stop its dependence on countries like the United States, China and Japan and instead “strive for a truly independent foreign policy, credible defense and economy.”

Zubiri said that the Japanese “are very disciplined” and he doubted that concerns raised about possible abuses “will be a big issue.”

“I think what is important is to be ready for any eventuality, because the RAA will allow interoperability and cross training between our forces not only in the times of self defense, but also in the times of calamity,” Zubiri said.

He said only two major crimes were reported involving American troops after the Senate ratified the VFA in May 1999—the Subic rape case in November 2005 and the murder of transgender Jennifer Laude in October 2014.

For his part, Romualdez promised to pour in more support for the military, Philippine Coast Guard, and other security and defense agencies to “strengthen our claim in the Kalayaan Island Group and other areas being claimed by China.”

He downplayed the Makabayan representatives’ fears that the RAA will lead to human rights violations or abuses against Filipino women.

“In this day and age of mass media, technology, social media, we are already sensitive when it comes to these issues. We learned from the past. We respect our women and fellow Filipinos, and we are confident that the relations between the Philippines and Japan will be smooth with this RAA,” Romualdez said.

Another layer

The RAA, once ratified, would add another layer to the bilateral defense cooperation between the Philippines and Japan, according to a statement after Marcos and Kishida met on Friday.

The agreement would be “beneficial both to our defense and military personnel and to maintaining peace and stability in our region,” they said.

The RAA discussions would make good on their commitments to a “transformative and forward-looking” strategic partnership, said a joint statement on Saturday by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The RAA negotiations were to follow the signing of the terms of reference on humanitarian disaster response during the visit by Mr. Marcos to Tokyo in February this year, but no specific date has been set.

The two leaders also said that they would continue to pursue more bilateral defense cooperation as well as trilateral arrangements with the United States, especially on maritime security. Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maki Kobayashi said the RAA would not be directed against any country.

“We consider that it is important to increase resilience, increase capacity because the Philippines is situated in a very important sea-lane,” Kobayashi said in an interview with reporters, referring to the South China Sea.

“There is extensive export and import and all the navigation going around in this region, so we think it’s important to secure the capacity,” she said.

The Philippines straddles the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean, both deemed as areas of strategic competition between the Philippines and China.

Japan has RAAs with Australia and Britain.

The Japan-UK RAA entered into force last month after it was signed in January this year and its agreement with Australia took effect in August after the January 2022 signing.

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Japan’s foreign ministry said the agreement between Tokyo and Canberra would facilitate the cooperative activities between the defense forces of the two countries, further promote bilateral security and defense cooperation and enable the two countries to further contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. (See related story on Pages A5)

TAGS: Juan Miguel Zubiri, Kishida Fumio, Martin Romualdez, PH-Japan relations

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