Pimentel, Makabayan bloc raise concern over military deal with Japan
MANILA, Philippines— The Philippines must not allow itself to be the base of any foreign military, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said on Sunday as he cautioned his colleagues from swiftly approving the proposed defense treaty between the Philippines and Japan.
Pimentel did not hide his disappointment after Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri practically guaranteed the upper chamber’s ratification of the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), a military accord that would open up the country to Japanese soldiers to train with their Filipino counterparts.
The agreement is similar to the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and Australia, and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States.By the name itself, Pimentel pointed out, Filipino soldiers must be allowed to stay in Japan as part of the reciprocity of the security arrangement.
“But it is not being talked about. They just really want the Philippines to be a station of the military of other countries,” he said in a radio interview.
“We don’t want to make the Philippines a battleground. We should not agree with that … because we are attracting ‘return fire,’” he stressed.
Speaking with reporters, Zubiri said: “We need more than 16 votes, I believe we have more than that to ratify the RAA in the Senate.” According to Pimentel, the Senate President’s remarks in committing support for the RAA only covered those belonging with the supermajority composed of 22 out of the 24 senators.
Violence against women
The Makabayan bloc has also expressed concern over the planned visiting forces deal with Japan, saying it could result in an increase in cases of violence against women, and urged the government to pursue an independent foreign policy.
Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party list Rep. France Castro, and Assistant Minority Leader Arlene Brosas cited the failure of the Japanese government to acknowledge the abuses experienced by Filipino comfort women in World War II in opposing the Japan-Philippines RAA.
“Japan has not apologized for abuses on comfort women in World War II and here they are planning to again send their military to our country,” Castro said.
“The proposed security agreement is seen as part of the entire United States military network in the region, with Japan serving as a junior partner of the United States and the Philippines playing a role as a vital cog of the US war machine in the region,” she added.
For her part, Brosas, the Gabriela women’s party list representative, strongly opposed the RAA with Japan, citing its potential implications for women victims of World War II abuses.
Brosas said the Philippine government must pursue an independent foreign policy and prioritize the interests and welfare of the Filipino people, especially the victims of historical abuses.