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Zubiri echoes need for VFA-like deal in meeting with Japanese lawmakers

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri has reiterated the need for a military pact with Japan that is similar to the Philippine-United States' Visiting Forces Agreement during a meeting with Japanese lawmakers at the National Diet on Tuesday.

Zubiri and nine other senators met with their counterparts headed by Japan-Philippine parliamentarians Friendship League chairman Moriyama Hiroshi.

“Japan’s support has been a major boost to our defense systems and practices,” the Senate president was quoted as saying.

“I am hopeful that we can move forward with the Japan-Philippines Reciprocal Access Agreement as well, as Japan has done with the United Kingdom and Australia,” he continued.

During President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s official visit to Japan in February, Zubiri expressed hope that the Philippines and Japan would start the initial discussion on Japan-Philippines Reciprocal Access Agreement.

Marcos earlier said that he and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishido discussed a possible VFA between the two states “very briefly.”

According to Zubiri, Moriyama emphasized during the meeting that the Japanese government intends to develop its defense cooperation efforts further with the full support of the parliaments.

Apart from the military pact, the Senate leader said the Filipino and Japanese lawmakers also deliberated  on the current bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in the areas of trade and industry, tourism, disaster management, and security.

The Senate president also extended the country’s gratitude to Japan for providing vital assistance to the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro and for the various loans and grants that were offered to the Philippines.

He specifically mentioned Japan’s delivery of air surveillance radar systems to the Philippine Department of National Defense, with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force conducting training for the Philippine Air Force in handling and operating the system.

“We are here to show that the Philippines and Japan are more than just friends. We are strategic partners. We are brought together by shared values and ideals, and we deal with shared problems as well. As such, it is incredibly important that we strengthen our cooperation, toward the overall success of our countries and of the region,” said Zubiri.

The Senate chief also invited the Japanese parliament to visit the Philippines for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum which will be hosted by the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives in November.

Joining Zubiri in Japan were Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Deputy Majority Leader JV Ejercito, Senators Sonny Angara, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Mark Villar. They were accompanied by Philippine Ambassador to Japan Mylene Garcia-Albano.—AOL, GMA Integrated News