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PNoy eyes expanded VFA pact with Japan

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III wants an expanded cooperation with Japan and a Visiting Forces Agreement with it similar to that with the United States, an official said Thursday.

“In his interview with the Japan National Press Club last June 5, the President emphasized the importance of expanding cooperation with Japan, which is one of the Philippines’ two strategic partners,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to reporters.

“The DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] and the DND [Department of National Defense] are now discussing with their Japanese counterparts the feasibility of forging such a Visiting Forces Agreement,” Coloma said.  

“It will be recalled that the VFA with the United States was submitted and ratified by the Senate.  Hence, any similar agreement will have to undergo the same process,” he said.

Coloma made his statement even as the Defense Department on Thursday confirmed that the country was interested in acquiring P-3C “Orion” maritime patrol and surveillance aircraft from Japan.

“We are interested in acquiring them [P-3Cs], especially if they become excess defense articles as we can acquire them at a very reasonable price that is advantageous to the government,” Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

Japan is in the process of replacing its P-3Cs with its homegrown Kawasaki Heavy P-1 patrol aircraft, which has twice the range of the “Orion” that is pegged at 2,380 nautical miles.

The Japanese military is known to operate 70-plus units of the P-3Cs.

Coloma made his statement after he was asked if Malacañang would ask Congress to speed up the ratification of the VFA with Japan.

The relations between the Philippines and China  plunged to their lowest when the Philippines sought arbitration in January 2013 to try to declare as illegal China’s massive claim over the South China Sea, including the areas within the resource-rich waters that fall under Manila’s territory.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over 90 percent of the waters, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

Earlier in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aquino jointly declared that the relationship between their two countries had entered the stage of “Strengthened Strategic Partnership,” in which they will cooperate for shared principles and goals even as they expressed concern about the large-scale reclamation in the South China Sea by China. With PNA

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