Canada and the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation in January 2024, a move which Manila’s defense chief said could lead to a bilateral troop pact.
“I’m glad to hear that there is a strong intention on both sides to deepen and strengthen the relationships by forging new milestones in our defense relations to culminate, perhaps, with the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a statement.
Manila has such an agreement with the United States, which allows the rotation of U.S. troops to and from the Philippines for drills and exercises.
The Philippine Defense Ministry said the memorandum would jump-start cooperation with Canada on military education and training, information sharing, peacekeeping operations, and disaster response.
“The strongest assets we have are the mutual trust and confidence that we have in one another … and because we are dealing with each other in a straightforward, open and on a rules-based manner, such trust is reinforced and will surpass political changes and the tests of time,” Teodoro said.
Canada has supported the Philippines in the face of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) increased assertiveness in the South China Sea, backing a 2016 international tribunal’s ruling that Beijing’s expansive claims to the strategic waterway have no legal basis. The PRC has ignored that decision, and its coast guard and maritime militia have harassed fishing crews and Philippine vessels conducting military resupply missions.
In October 2023, Ottawa and Manila signed a deal for the Philippines to use Canada’s Dark Vessel Detection system to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by vessels that have switched off their location transmitters to evade detection.
The system will also enhance the Philippines’ maritime domain awareness over its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone, where there have been a series of confrontations with the PRC.