Metro Manila, Philippines – The Philippines and Japan have opened negotiations for the establishment of a Reciprocal Access Agreement between troops of the two nations, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida disclosed on Friday.

The RAA is similar to a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows troops from one country to freely visit another temporarily

Japan currently shares RAAs with Australia and the United Kingdom, while the Philippines has a VFA with the United States and a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia.

“I also would like to recall our commitment to work on a framework for our Status of Visiting Forces or proposed Reciprocal Access Agreement with Japan,” Marcos said during the presentation of agreements between the two countries.

“We are cognizant of the benefits of having this arrangement both to our personnel and maintaining peace and stability in our region,” he also said.

Kishida, in his own address, said: “A further decision was made to start negotiations on the Reciprocal Access Agreement or RAA and agreed to further strengthen trilateral cooperation between Japan, the US, and the Philippines.”

The Philippines has been eyeing a VFA with Japan since last year.

On top of the proposed RAA, Marcos and Kishida agreed to strengthen trilateral relations among the Philippines, Japan, and the United States – talks which have been in the works since earlier this year.

This comes amid rising tensions in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific Region, primarily due to Beijing’s escalating aggression toward Filipino vessels in Manila’s exclusive economic zone.

“As leaders of like-minded states, we affirm our commitment to peaceful negotiations to resolve maritime conflicts and the need for a stable and secure environment for mutually inclusive growth and development for our peoples,” Marcos said.

Kishida echoed Marcos’ sentiment. “We shared serious concerns about the situation in the East China Sea and the South China Sea and that attempts to unilaterally change the status quo is unacceptable.”

Defense grant to PH

Furthermore, Japan’s government agreed to grant the Philippine government Official Security Assistance (OSA) worth ¥600 million or around ₱235 million.

This fund is “for the benefit of the armed forces and other related organizations by providing materials and equipment as well as assistance for infrastructure development based on the security needs of the countries,” according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Marcos said the OSA would help boost the Department of National Defense’s efforts in acquiring coastal radars for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to enhance maritime domain awareness capability and security.

“This OSA will further enhance the military capacities of our countries including the Philippines, which shares common security concerns with Japan,” he said.