By AILA JOSOL and YZELLE ROSE PADA
MANILA – Various groups fear that a military pact between the Philippines and Japan could further intensify the conflict in the West Philippine Sea.
“We warn the Marcos administration that entering into a military agreement with another foreign superpower won’t peacefully solve the tensions in the West Philippine Sea. Rather, it could inflame and further China’s antagonistic occupation in our territorial waters at the expense of the Filipino fishers who will be caught between military superpowers,” Fernando Hicap, chairperson of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, said.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Khisida held a two-day official visit to Manila in what they said was an effort to strengthen their military ties and discuss their shared concerns on the brewing conflict in the West Philippine Sea.
This included talks on the proposed Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), a military agreement between the Philippines and Japan, which the former hopes to finalize soon.
The proposed military pact comes in the heels of the intensifying conflict in the West Philippine Sea, with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. announcing that Japan will grant the Philippines P235 million (US$4.208 million) for official security assistance. This will supposedly help the country’s defense department to ensure the coastal radar for Manila’s armed forces in maritime security and defense of the region.
“Instead of peaceful and diplomatic solutions, the Philippine government always resorts to subservient foreign policies and unequal defense agreements that do nothing to de-escalate the tensions in our territory,” Hicap added.
Pamalakaya said the military pact will neither uphold the country’s sovereignty nor ease the tension between Filipino fishers and the Chinese coast guard in the disputed waters.
“We are firm with our opposition against any foreign military intervention in the country, whether it be China, United States, or Japan,” Pamalakaya said in a statement.
For its part, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that the country should instead establish diplomatic relations with other nations “whose strategic interests do not trample on our sovereignty” to help develop the Philippines’ own industrial and economic bases.
Like Pamalakaya, Bayan maintained that Japan’s troops and bases extension will escalate tension and put the country’s sovereignty in question.
“We have various international laws at our disposal to assert our sovereign rights to China, such as the 2016 arbitral ruling. The major stumbling block is not China’s non-compliance with the ruling, but the Philippine government’s lack of political will and courage to uphold what is rightfully ours,” Hicap said.
Past sexual slavery
Women’s group Gabriela similarly denounced the RAA, citing that Japan has yet to apologize for its atrocities during the war that involved sexual slavery.
“Why should we allow the Philippines to be a playground of Japanese soldiers?” Gabriela Deputy Secretary General Cora Agovida asked.
The Philippines is among the Asian countries whose women suffered from systematic abduction, repeated rape and torture by Japanese forces between 1942 and 1945. According to documented reports, an estimated 1,000 Filipino women were forced to become “comfort women,” or objects of sexual gratification.
Their plight only became public when survivor Rosa Henson revealed her story in 1992.
Aside from an apology, the group said that no form of assistance has also been extended to the women victims.
“Filipino women know the reality of armed conflicts. We will not allow another generation of comfort women and children who will be enslaved and made as objects of sexual gratification of the entering soldiers,” Agovida said. (JJE, RTS, RVO)