Manila, Tokyo agree to boost maritime security

By Manolo B. Jara

MANILA: President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino on Saturday reported that the Philippines and Japan agreed to strengthen their maritime co-operation as part of their strategic partnership in the face of their worsening territorial disputes with China.

But in doing so, Aquino stressed he and Shinzo Abe, the visiting Japanese prime minister, also pledged to pursue “requisite action” by upholding the “rule of law” in resolving such disputes.

“We reviewed the security challenges that confront our nations and pledged to co-operate in advancing our common advocacy for requisite action from international players,” Aquino told a media briefing in Malacanang Palace where he earlier met Abe to discuss vital issues particularly on the bilateral and regional concerns of the two nations.

Aquino added: “We believe that can be done by upholding the rule of law in international affairs and by finding just and peaceful solutions to our territorial disputes and maritime concerns so that we may create a secure and stable environment that leads to collective progress.”

He did not elaborate but he was apparently referring to the unresolved conflicting territorial claims the Philippines and Japan have with China in the South China Sea and East China Sea that tended to worsen regional tensions.

Reports disclosed that Japan has agreed to supply 10 patrol boats or cutters to the Philippine Coast Guard to strengthen its capability to prevent foreign incursions into its territorial waters amid Beijing’s increasing assertiveness in its maritime dispute with Manila. Abe arrived in the Philippines on Friday night for a two-day state visit ending on Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported.

The DFA added it was Abe’s second official visit to the Philippines, the first being in 2006 when he was also elected the Japanese prime minister.

On Saturday morning, Aquino welcomed Abe to Malacanang Palace with the traditional military honours and 21-gun salute after which they met together with their cabinet officials and advisers to discuss issues of common concern followed by a luncheon tendered in his honour.

In the media briefing, Aquino also thanked Japan for its continued support particularly in the Mindanao peace process through programmes for community and human resources development.