The Philippine government said it will negotiate its planned Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with Japan amid rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific.
The two countries are both in maritime territorial disputes with China over the South China Sea and some Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
As part of the proposed RAA, both nations would be allowed to deploy military forces on each other’s soil, further strengthening military readiness and cooperation.
It would also facilitate all procedures and set guidelines when Philippine forces visit Japan for training and joint exercises, and vice versa, according to National Security Adviser Eduardo Año.
Once a deal is signed, it would need ratification from the Philippine Senate and Japanese legislature.
Opposition Unlikely in Senate
News about RAA negotiations surfaced following Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida‘s visit to Manila earlier this month in which he spoke at a joint session of the Philippine Congress.
He said that apart from joint exercises, the agreement would also facilitate smooth exchanges between the Philippine military and Tokyo’s Self-Defense Forces.
“In the South China Sea, bilateral cooperation to protect the freedom of the sea is underway. Through these efforts, let us protect the maritime order, which is governed by laws and rules – not by force,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Philippine Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has expressed confidence that the proposed RAA will be ratified once it reaches the upper house of Congress.
Zubri said the proposal would only need 16 votes, and he already knows more than 16 senators who are supporting the treaty.
“It is better that we have a reciprocal access agreement so that we already have the guidelines when it comes to following rules and regulations within our sovereign countries. So, I think we’re looking at maybe next year – 2024, to be able to ratify this,” Zubiri stressed.