Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr triumphantly returned from his five-day business trip to Japan with major economic and military defense deals in his pocket.

It was the leader’s ninth foreign visit in just over eight months, with previous trips to the USA and China, and proved to be his most fruitful meeting yet.

In Tokyo, the Filipino president secured US$13 billion in investment pledges and another $3 billion in loans, which according to the official readout could create as many as 24,000 jobs in the Philippines.

The two sides discussed the status of a whole range of big-ticket Japanese infrastructure projects, including the North-South Commuter Railway for Malolos-Tutuban, and the North South-Commuter Railway Project Extension.

Japan is also currently building the Southeast Asian country’s first-ever underground metro system, which promises to revolutionize Manila’s decrepit and clogged public transportation system.

Japan also agreed to provide the Philippines comprehensive assistance in the areas of agriculture, digital economy, the peace process in Mindanao and training of Filipino civil servants.

Historically a top source of development aid and infrastructure investments, Japan hopes to take its bilateral relations with the Philippines to a new level.

Accordingly, Tokyo is finalizing an unprecedented defense aid package as well as a Reciprocal Access Agreement with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The two sides also signaled their intent to expand joint military exercises, with an eye on a more robust USA-Japan-Philippine triangular offensive alliance amid rising geopolitical tensions with China in the region.

By several indications, Marcos Jr is cementing his country’s pivot back to traditional allies after six years of a Beijing-friendly foreign policy under the authoritarian populist regime of Rodrigo Duterte.

As expected, trade and commercial deals dominated Marcos Jr’s trip to Japan, which is the only country to now have a bilateral free trade deal with the Philippines.

Since coming to power, the Filipino president has made commercial diplomacy a central theme of his administration, as the Southeast Asian nation aims to boost its post-pandemic recovery amid fears of global recession and heightened inflation at home.

Coming back, we carry with us over 13 billion US dollars in contributions and pledges to benefit our people and create approximately 24,000 jobs, and further solidify the so-called foundation of our economic environment.

The Filipino president also declared that Japan is offering around $3 billion to finance big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the North-South Commuter Railway Project Extension and the North-South Commuter Railway for Malolos-Tutuban.

Both aim to enhance connectivity among the country’s more industrialized regions.

The completion of these projects along with other large-scale development assistance projects such as the Metro Manila Subway Project and many more across the country are expected to translate to better lives for Filipinos through improved facilitation of the movement of people of goods and services.

The two sides also welcomed progress in the Japan-led Metro Manila Subway Project while exploring further deals on the maintenance and rehabilitation of existing railway systems, most notably the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3).

Japan has also promised to help the Philippines modernize its failing air transport infrastructure under the New Communications, Navigation and Surveillance and Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) Development Project.

Last month, Marcos Jr attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos with a large invited delegation of the country’s leading business and conglomerate leaders.

The Japanese shipping companies also have investments and long-term partnerships with Filipino stakeholders in maritime education and consumer welfare programs.

The Filipino president largely welcomed Japan’s new National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Defense Buildup Program, which collectively facilitate the Asian country’s re-emergence as a major US bound military player in the Indo-Pacific region.

Down the road, Japan and the Philippines hope to finalize a Visiting Forces Agreement, which would enable more large-scale joint military exercises in addition to pre-existing Philippine-USA and Philippine-Australia so-called defense agreements.

Crucially, Japan has also agreed to provide a new package of defense aid and other forms of defense equipment transfer programs.

In particular, the two sides are exploring the transfer of new air-surveillance radar systems, Japan-made 97 meter class patrol vessels and other forms of military hardware, which could enhance the Philippines awareness and maritime security capabilities vis-à-vis China.

Japan is also set to assist the development of a Philippine Coast Guard Subic Bay support base, which could serve as the home of, and the installation of satellite communications system on patrol vessels.

The Philippines and Japan are also exploring a tripartite security agreement with the US as part of a broader integrated military strategy against China.

In recent years, Japan has regularly attended major joint drills in the Philippines, including the large-scale Philippines–USA Balikatan, KAMANDAG and Sama-Sama offensive exercises and the Philippines–Australia Lumbas drills.

Moving forward, the two sides also agreed to institutionalize the Japan-Philippines-US Land Forces Summit and underscored their commitment to deepening defense exchanges through trilateral mechanisms.

Such as the Japan-Philippines-US Trilateral Joint Staff Talks and the Japan-Philippines-US Trilateral Defense Policy Dialogue, as well as the JSDF’s participation in Philippines-US joint exercises.

Asia Times / ABC Flash Point WW III News 2023.

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15-02-23 16:26

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