The Philippines’ top diplomat said stronger security ties with Japan are essential for peace in the Indo-Pacific region, as he advocated for enhancing Philippine defenses because of “repeated infringements on our sovereignty.”
Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo’s comments in mid-May 2023 underscored the security challenges that both nations face from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Manila and Tokyo are embroiled in territorial 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 speech at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo.
“We are driven by the same faith in rules and commitment to multilateralism,” he added, according to a copy of his speech.
Manalo was in Tokyo for the Munich Leaders Meeting security conference.
In the coming years, Philippine-Japanese ties will focus on maritime security, particularly domain awareness and law enforcement to implement the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said. (Pictured: The Philippine and Japan coast guards conduct an anti-piracy drill in Manila Bay, the Philippines.)
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.
He also urged further discussion between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the PRC 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, Netherlands, ruled in favor of the Philippines and threw out Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, particularly the waters within Manila’s exclusive economic zone.
Beijing, however, has ignored the landmark ruling and continues its military expansion in the strategic waterway, including building artificial reefs and other features.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed in February 2023 to “increase the defense capabilities of their respective countries, and further strengthen overall security cooperation.”
The nations agreed to increase communication between defense and military officials “in light of the very challenging regional security environment.”
IMAGE CREDIT: REUTERS