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Tolentino: Possible VFA between Philippines, Japan constitutional

Senator Francis Tolentino said Sunday he sees nothing wrong with the prospective Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and Japan as it will be in line with the Philippine Constitution.

This came after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to bolster Manila and Tokyo’s defense and security relations by having further bilateral discussions on addressing regional and international situations, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.

The two Asian leaders resolved to "increase the defense capabilities of their own countries, and further strengthen overall security cooperation,” which will be accomplished through strategic reciprocal port calls and aircraft visits, transfer of more defense equipment and technology, continuous cooperation on previously-transferred defense equipment, and capacity building.

“Sangayon po ito sa Saligang Batas kasi na meron nang Supreme Court decision dati na nabanggit ang VFA patungkol sa agreement natin sa Estados Unidos,” Tolentino said in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB.

(The possible VFA with Japan is in line with the Constitution because there was a Supreme Court decision that mentioned the VFA in our agreement with the United States.)

“Wala po akong nakikitang mali dito, kaya lang magiging insutitional po ito na lagi silang tutulong sa atin at ang mananaig pong batas diyan ay batas ng Republika ng Pilipinas,” he added.

(I don't see anything wrong with it. It’s just that it institutionalizes that they will always help us, but the law of the Republic of the Philippines will prevail.)

The lawmaker pointed out that aside from the United States, the Philippines also shares the same agreement with Australia under the Philippines–Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA).

The VFA is an implementation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty forged by the US and the Philippines as security partners after World War II. It is a framework agreement that covers the treatment and presence of American forces in the country with or without war games.

The VFA also makes it possible for the US military to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in combating extremist groups by providing technical assistance and enemy surveillance to Filipino troops battling the militants.

Tolentino explained that a similar agreement with Japan would be beneficial to the Philippines as it would strengthen the AFP and help in times of disaster.

“Sa atin mahalaga ito…kasi wala naman tayo sa ngayon na ganung kakayahan na gumastos ng bilyon bilyun-bilyong dolyares para palakasin ang Sandatahang Lakas,” he said.

(It is important for us because we currently cannot spend billions of dollars in strengthening the AFP.)

“Pangalawa, wala naman tayong ganung kalaking resources para ikaltas sa ating national budget para paghanda rin kung ano mang mangyaring kalamidad… Pero ito, meron kaagad na tutulong, meron kaagad na aayuda sa atin,” he added.

(Secondly, we don't have abundant resources in our national budget to prepare for any calamity... But for this, there is a country that will immediately help us.)

Tolentino also said tensions with China in the West Philippine Sea was not the only reason the Philippines was considering a VFA with Japan. — DVM, GMA Integrated News