With nothing more than diplomatic savvy and a willingness to collaborate and cooperate with other nations the Philippines stands to gain another military ally that is Japan through what is called a Reciprocal Access Agreement
(RAA). This RAA will be the first of its kind military agreement between the Philippines and Japan after World War II and reinforces the unprecedented campaign of the country to seek military allies to bolster its maritime defense against what is now called “territory grabbing” by China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

It is widely reported in the media that the country has set its sights in having the arrangement signed with Japan before the year ends. The RAA is an agreement between government aimed at shared military training and military
operations, and “built to create a framework for the two cooperating countries to move their military force whenever
required, and also provides a pathway for goods to be imported and exported from one country to the other through following the movement of visiting military forces.”

While this type of military agreement may seem like a novel scheme of defense alliance between countries it is
similar to that of other defense pacts such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the US and the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement between the country and Australia. In fact National Security Council (NSC) Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya has commented that the RAA is actually more of a VFA where soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) can travel to Japan and conduct their drills and trainings in that place and likewise with the Japanese soldiers who can come to the Philippines and do their training here.

At the moment the RAA might not seem much considering that it has yet to be signed and concluded by both contracting parties, but most definitely the one other country intently observing the development and outcome of this military alliance will be China since Japan, like the Philippines has overlapping claims with China in the WPS. So little by little the Philippines is slowly inching its way towards accumulating more military allies which, assuming they will all enter into military alliances with the country, will surely establish a very formidable defensive posture making it difficult for China to further expand its ‘territorial grabbing’ in the WPS.

Related to all of this military pacts and alliances energetically being pursued by the country is a reconfiguration of the Horizon 3 modernization program of the AFP which will now be called ‘Rehorizon 3’ focusing more on outward
territorial defense and modernization. According to AFP chief General Romeo Brawner Jr., a true-blue Baguio boy, the AFP after gaining ground in its campaign against the New Peoples Army (NPA) insurgents and their allies, is now set to shift its sight towards territorial defense which will include the conduct of more air and naval patrols
over the country’s maritime territories to include the WPS.

To recall the AFP modernization program began from 2013 to 2017 under Horizon 1, from 2018 to 2022 under Horizon 2 and Horizon 3 which is scheduled from 2023 to 2028. The reconfiguration of Horizon 3 towards Rehorizon 3 came about as a recommendation from Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro after the latter observed that the modernization list under horizon 3 has to do more with the defense of territory when under proximity or near threats, meaning action is taken only when threats have approach very closely to the territory. Under the Rehorizon 3 concept the modernization of the AFP will be aimed at strengthening the defense capabilities of the military in order to safeguard the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the country.

This will of course necessarily require more modern and sophisticated military equipment and material such as
long-range radars, more bigger and lethal ships, more aircraft as well as d up its domain awareness, intelligence
capabilities, communication, command and control, as well as enhanced area denial and deterrence capabilities both on the maritime and aerial domains. DND Secretary Teodoro also said that the uptick on diplomatic engagements with other countries for potential defense pacts and agreements only shows the commitment of the country in protecting its territory and sovereignty. For now the above measures being undertaken by the government shows a deep resolve not only to ramp up the country’s defensive capabilities but also to serve notice to the rest of the world that its territorial integrity and sovereignty are not to be trifled with.

Amianan Balita Ngayon