By Genalyn D. Kabiling
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is open to continued maritime safety exercises between the coast guards of the Philippines and Japan in the region.
The President said Japan may continue to deploy its coast guard personnel, not its defense forces, according to renewed defense and security cooperation agreement between the two nations.
“I do not think that they are sending soldiers – the Japan Defense Forces. No. It’s their military arm of their government and I do not think that your Constitution would allow that thing to happen,” Duterte said in a press conference Tuesday night upon arrival in Davao City from his visit to Japan.
“Maybe the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard there is purely civilian. It belongs to the Department of Transportation. And Coast Guard is the component of enforcing the laws regarding — the laws that is applicable in the territorial waters of Japan,” he added when asked about any upcoming joint training or drills between the two countries.
The President said the Philippines and Japan have agreed to intensify defense and security cooperation to combat terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes.
“We will strive to make our waters free and open to our peoples so that they can enjoy our rich natural maritime resources,” he said.
The security cooperation was among the topics tackled by Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In a joint statement on bilateral cooperation for the next five years, the two governments recognized the “increasing importance of counter-terrorism and maritime safety measures in the region including the Sulu-Celebes Seas.”
Japan has offered to extend assistance, such as capacity building of the Philippine maritime safety agency to include coastal surveillance capability. This will be in addition to the swift provision of patrol vehicles and other equipment.
The latest Japanese assistance aims to “ensure effective operation of the patrol vessels and high-speed boats provided by the Government of Japan.”
The two governments also agreed to continue to consult on further cooperation on this field, the statement read.
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