By Michaela Del Callar
MANILA, Nov. 17 (PNA) — Japan on Tuesday confirmed that Manila and Tokyo are finalizing a deal allowing the transfer of military equipment to the Philippines.
Speaking to journalists in Manila, Japan’s Deputy Press Secretary Koichi Mizushima, however, did not say if it will be signed during the bilateral meeting of President Benigno S. Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting on Wednesday.
The deal, earlier reports said, would allow Japan to transfer not only equipment, but also technology that will upgrade the Philippines’ military capability.
“The Japanese government has a very strict rule when exporting equipment,” Mizushiima explained. “In order for us to export or share technologies with other countries, we need to have such a legal arrangement beforehand. I think that is why the countries have started negotiations.”
Manila has turned to the U.S., Australia, Japan and other western allies in an ongoing effort to modernize its military – among the weakest in the Asian region – and strengthen its capability to guard and defend its territory, including Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea that is being claimed nearly in its entirety by China.
The Philippines and Japan are both embroiled in separate territorial disputes with China that have flared recently. The Philippines is locked in a long-running sea row with China over parts of its exclusive economic zone being claimed by Beijing off the West Philippine Sea, while Japan and China are contesting ownership over islands called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu in Chinese.
The Philippines and Japan also have an existing strategic partnership agreement – Manila’s second after the United States – that aims to bolster their cooperation on several fronts, including defense and maritime security.
Japan has expressed its full support to the Philippines’ decision to bring its territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea before an arbitration tribunal that is operating under a United Nations convention.(PNA)