MANILA, Oct. 7, Kyodo — Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday that the Philippine government is still exploring the possibility of an agreement that would allow Japan’s military to use Philippine bases.
“I will have it studied, looked into,” Lorenzana told reporters during a forum in Manila, citing the improving relationship between the Philippines and Japan in recent years.
He was responding to a question about the current administration’s stance on a visiting forces agreement with Japan, which was first raised last year by the previous administration.
During a state visit to Japan in July last year, previous President Benigno Aquino III said his nation was ready to begin talks on such an agreement, a move that would allow Japanese troops to refuel in the Southeast Asian country and hold joint exercises with the Philippine forces.
The Philippines currently has visiting forces agreements with the United States and Australia. Such accords allow access by foreign forces to the Philippines and enable joint military exercises.
Japan and the Philippines have increasingly stepped up their cooperation in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness in the contested waters in the South China Sea.
However, since taking office in June, President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will seek closer ties with Beijing, whither he will make his first state visit later this month.