Philippines: ‘Stronger security cooperation’ with Japan essential for regional peace

Camille Elemia
Philippines: ‘Stronger security cooperation’ with Japan essential for regional peace Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos (second from left) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, May 11, 2023.
[Willy Kurniawan/Pool/AFP]

The top Filipino diplomat said Tuesday that stronger security ties with Japan were essential for peace in the Asia-Pacific region, as he advocated for enhancing Philippine defenses because of “repeated infringements on our sovereignty.”

The comments in Tokyo by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo underlined the security challenges that both nations face from China – Tokyo and Manila are embroiled in maritime disputes with Beijing over the South and East China seas, respectively. 

“We have never been more convinced as now that our stronger security cooperation will allow our peoples to live in greater peace,” Manalo said during a policy speech at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

“We are driven by the same faith in rules and commitment to multilateralism,” he added, according to a copy of his speech obtained by reporters in Manila.

Manalo was in Tokyo for the Munich Leaders Meeting, which ended on Tuesday.

In the coming years Philippine-Japanese ties would focus on maritime security, particularly on domain awareness and law enforcement to implement the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said.

While the Philippines has had conflicts with China in the South China Sea, Japan has had its own territorial disputes with the Asian superpower over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Manalo said that while dialogue and diplomacy should be the primary means to address disputes, “repeated infringements on our sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction … also necessitate the enhancement of our defense capabilities.”

“Let me emphasize that maritime cooperation will always be a key feature of Philippines-Japan ties. Being island-states binds us in the common objective of keeping the seas of the Indo Pacific safe, secure and peaceful,” Manalo said. 

Manalo also urged further discussion between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China on a code of conduct for the South China Sea. 

“To achieve a peaceful and UNCLOS-based regime, sincere dialogue among all claimants is crucial, both bilaterally and through discussions between ASEAN and China on a code of conduct,” Manalo said.

“The Philippines advocates for an effective and substantive code of conduct that adheres to UNCLOS and takes into account the interests of all stakeholders, even extending beyond ASEAN and China.”

In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines, and threw out China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, particularly the waters within Manila’s exclusive economic zone. 

China, however, ignored the landmark ruling and has carried on with its military expansionism in the strategic waterway, including building artificial islands.

During Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s official visit to Japan in February, he and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to “increase the defense capabilities of their respective countries, and further strengthen overall security cooperation.” 

The two sides agreed to increase bilateral communications between their defense and military officials “in light of the very challenging regional security environment.”


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