January 24, 2018, 9:18 am
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More strategic relations with Australia, Japan urged

IN light of China’s continuing expansion in the disputed West Philippine Sea, the country should explore more strategic partnerships with other countries in the Asia Pacific, especially Japan and Australia, security experts said.

A way to counter Beijing’s aggression is to explore set-ups such as a common Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan and Australia or a trilateral deal among the three countries, said Dr. Renato De Castro at the roundtable discussion organized by private think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute with theme: The Special Japan-Australia Strategic Partnership Within the Ambit of Democratic Security Diamond.

 “Japan and Australia hold a common view on the importance of encouraging third countries in playing active roles in regional security and the need to develop closer ties with them,” De Castro added.

What exists at the moment is the bilateral Philippine-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), ratified in 2007, on the status of armed forces from each country while in the territory of the other.

 “The Philippines might consider either negotiating or signing a separate VFA with Japan or it may extend its existing VFA with Australia to include Japan,” De Castro said.

Another arrangement is something like the Democratic Security Diamond, an informal partnership among Australia, Japan, India, and the United States, which De Castro said could help the Philippines in enhancing its maritime capabilities and contributing to the establishment of a rules-based order in the region.

Stratbase ADRI President Dindo Manhit said, “Democratic Security Diamond is relevant to the Philippines in order to develop and enhance the maritime capabilities of the Philippines in the face of China’s expansion in East Asia. Specifically, capacity building efforts and attempting to reorganize regional security architecture through establishing a rules-based order in East Asia”.

 “Maximizing the Japan-Australia Strategic Partnership efforts for capacity building in parallel with healthy relationships with the US will greatly benefit Philippine interests”, Manhit said.
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