Japan renews promise to help Philippines modernize its military

Jojo Riñoza and Basilio Sepe
2022.07.19
Manila
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Japan renews promise to help Philippines modernize its military Tsuyohito Iwamoto, Japan’s vice minister of defense, reaffirms his government’s commitment to assist the Philippines as it faces territorial threats, while speaking to troops at Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, July 18, 2022.
Handout photo/Armed Forces of the Philippines

During a visit to Manila, Japan’s vice minister for defense renewed Tokyo’s commitment to helping the Philippines modernize its military, as the Southeast Asian nation faces territorial threats, Filipino officials said Tuesday.

Tsuyohito Iwamoto met with Jose Faustino, the Philippines’ acting defense secretary, at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday after talks with other key Philippine defense and military officials, according to the Philippine Department of National Defense. 

Beijing was not specifically mentioned, but the Philippines, along with other nations in the region, is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. Japan, for its part, is locked in a separate dispute with China in the East China Sea, particularly over the Senkaku Islands.

“The two officials discussed overall Philippines-Japan defense relations and regional security concerns,” the department said in a statement, adding that both officials “reaffirmed that respect for international law and a rules-based order is essential in maintaining peace and stability in the region, particularly in the South China Sea and East China Sea.”

Arsenio Andolong, a spokesman for the department, said Iwamoto talked about Japan’s ongoing efforts to support the Philippines.

“Japan has expressed its willingness to continue offering us equipment and some technologies. They want to help us with our requirements for our modernization,” Andolong said without giving more details because he was not authorized to do so.

Over the past several years, Japan has donated trainer aircraft, spare parts for Huey helicopters and search-and-rescue equipment to the Filipino armed forces.

Andolong said Faustino and Iwamoto also discussed defense relations as well as regional security concerns.

During their meeting, Faustino and Iwamoto recalled the successful April two-plus-two Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting the countries held in Tokyo, Andolong said.

Iwamoto described that meeting as a “manifestation of the two countries’ growing bilateral strategic partnership,” according to Andolong. 

At Camp Aguinaldo, Iwamoto also met with Armed Forces chief Gen. Andres Centino where they discussed “bilateral engagements anchored on existing defense cooperation agreements,” according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Centino thanked Japan for its involvement in the Air Surveillance Radar System Acquisition Project under the military’s modernization program. The 5.5 billion pesos ($98 million) contract, signed in August 2020, was awarded to the Japanese firm Mitsubishi Electric Corp.

The defense department said the radar was to cover the Philippine Rise to the east of the nation, the southern region where Islamic State-linked militants operate, as well as the “the Southern portion of the West Philippine Sea,” Manila’s name for its claimed territories in the South China Sea.

The radar is expected to help boost Manila’s airspace monitoring, aircraft control as well as help the air force perform its air defense mission. In particular, it will “help detect, identify and correlate any threats and intrusions within the Philippine economic zone and deliver radar images” to operating units, the department said.

The system is expected to be delivered later this year, according to a Philippine media report.

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