Once World War II enemies half a century ago, the Philippines and Japan today are at the brink of forging one of the most vital security and defense arrangements which is seen as a protective effort against a common threat—- the creeping invasion of their national territories subject of dispute withÂ a wealthy and powerful neighbor.
Memories of the brutalities and the savagery of war have now become a footnote of history, replaced by more common and compelling interests of territorial self-preservation.
China is the common denominator.
Japan is at loggerheads with China over a territorial dispute involving Senkaku Island and Diaoyyu Island.
The Philippines meanwhile, is engaged in a tense dispute with China over islands located in the West Philippine Seas.
President Benigno C. Aquino III recently visited Japan on a mission to deepen a partnership and bilateral relationship, knowing too well that todayâ€™s strategic environment necessitates collaboration and cooperation with regional countries.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has confirmed the Philippines is now working on an agreement that would pave the wayÂ for Japan to transfer defense equipment and technology to the Philippines.
Previously Japan could only share equipment with civilian agencies.
â€œWe need a Visiting Force Agreement with Japan,â€ said Gazmin.
At the same time he stressed that the execution of a visiting force agreement is not directed against another country.
Gazmin said the matter of a Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and Japan is butÂ a manifestation of robust state of the Philippine and Japan bilateral relationship.
â€œThe maritime challenge both countries face place both the Philippines and Japan almost on the same boat with a common neighbor causing alarm and concern,â€ Gazmin related.
The declaration of an air defense identification zone in the East Asia Seas has cause alarm in Japan, he said.
Definitely making the Philippines worried and alarmed is the island-constructed being undertaken in the West Philippines Sea.
Gazmin emphasized that the defense cooperation between the Philippines and Japan will not include the establishment of military bases.
While the Philippines and Japan have joint exercises, these are done outside the territory of the Philippines, Gazmin said. (By Atty. Elmar Jay I. Dejaresco)