July 9, 2012
The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today asked the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to clarify the so-called Statement of Intent the Aquino government entered into with Japan on various security related issues including maritime security.
The Statement Of Intent on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges Between the Department Of National Defense of The Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Defense of Japan was signed by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and his Japanese counterpart Satoshi Morimoto last July 2. (download Statement here)
The Statement is being billed as another step towards building a minimum credible defense posture for the Philippines, especially with the ongoing dispute with China.
However, militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan believes that the statement is still consistent with the overall United States defense strategy in Asia of which the Philippines and Japan are both treaty partners. The group doubts if the statement of cooperation will lead to the development of a credible defense posture.
“The US wants a seamless interface with all its treaty partners in the region. This is the reason why Japan is enhancing defense ties with the Philippines. This is also why Australia wants to have a Status of Forces Agreement with the Philippines. South Korea, another US ally, is also getting involved. The military forces of these US treaty allies are being mobilize to support US strategic rebalancing of its forces in Asia, The big powers are merely using the dispute with China, and the weakness of our armed forces, to justify foreign military presence in the our country,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“It appears that Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force, is no longer focused just on external defense. It is flexing its military muscle in the region, under the auspices of the US. In fact the US Navy is the most frequent exercise partner of Japan. The Statement of Intent between Japan and the Philippines was done at the behest of the US,” Reyes said.
Bayan wanted the DFA to clarify if the Statement of Intent allows Japanese forces to participate in war games in the Philippines even if the country has no status of forces agreement with Japan.
Paragraph 1, Section 3 of the Statement of Intent dealing with Scope of Cooperation talks of Unit-to-Unit Exchanges between the armed forces of the two countries. The Statement allows both countries to “Participate, including as observers, in training activities and exercises conducted by either Participant (country), subject to mutual consent for each of the exercises; and to conduct unit-to-unit exchanges between the AFP and the JSDF, including training activities and exercises on the occasion of mutual ship visits between the PN and the JMSDF.”
The agreement also states that “the Participants will make implementing arrangements for specific defense cooperation or exchanges, as may be necessary.”
“The Statement of Intent appears to allow Japan to participate in military exercises in the Philippines, similar to what the US is doing in Balikatan, even if there is no existing treaty governing such activities. Either that or the Statement of Intent will be used to justify the ratification of a VFA with Japan, similar to what Australia is seeking now with the Philippines,” Reyes said.
“With Japan now wanting to do port calls and military exercises in the Philippines, and with the Australia seeking a Status of Forces Agreement to be able to conduct military exercises, our country becomes on giant military hub for the US and its treaty partners,” he added.
Bayan also questioned the seemingly indefinite nature of the Statement of Intent, which is initially in effect for 5 years but can be automatically extended for another five years unless a party suspends or terminates the cooperation. ###