Senators welcome RAA signing; vow to scrutinize newly inked treaty

(DAILY TRIBUNE) Senators on Monday welcomed the signing of the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) between the Philippines and Japan, which would allow the transfer of defense personnel between the two countries for training and disaster relief operations.

Senate President Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he “fully supports” the newly inked defense pact, stressing that it could help stop a “possible conflagration.”

“Anything that strengthens and increases our military’s capability is a deterrence to a possible conflagration. I fully support this agreement/arrangement,” Escudero said in a text message.

Senator Imee Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, also welcomed the signing of the RAA with Japan.

In a separate statement, Marcos also vowed to “scrutinize every line and every word” of the defense agreement once it is referred to her committee.

“We welcome having stronger security ties with our neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region. However, as with other treaties, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will scrutinize every line and every word of that treaty once the same is referred to us to make sure that it is aligned with the national interest of the country,” she said.

The 1987 Constitution requires the vote of at least two-thirds of all members of the Senate for treaties and international agreements to be valid and effective.

Former Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, who lauded the signing of the RAA, said he would support the ratification of the treaty in the chamber.

“It needs Senate ratification and we will support it absolutely,” Zubiri said as welcomed the treaty which he said was “very timely and will boost the country’s defense interoperability with the friendly Asian neighbor.”

“It was in 2022 when then-Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko and I first discussed the possibility of pursuing a Reciprocal Access Agreement between our countries, and I brought this idea to President Marcos early into his administration,” he said.

“So, I welcome this signing, and I am very hopeful that it will be a key partnership for achieving peace in the region,” he added.

Zubiri emphasized that the RAA signing would strengthen the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan, which he described as an “invaluable ally” to the Philippines.

“Japan is already an invaluable ally, and their assistance has been vital to the modernization of our Coast Guard and Navy. With this RAA, we can further strengthen our capacity-building through joint military exercises,” he said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, who also chairs the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, also vowed to support the treaty.

“I will see to it that the ratification of the RAA will be among the priority agenda of the Senate when we open the 3rd Regular Session later this month,” he said.

‘Strength in numbers’

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito also viewed the signing of the defense pact as a “welcome development in terms of security in the region and against China’s continued expansionism.”

According to Ejercito, all the help and assistance that the Philippines could get from traditional allies and right minded nations is “definitely much welcomed against China’s continued bullying and aggression towards us.”

“There is strength in numbers,” he stressed.

Senator Grace Poe echoed the same sentiments as she underscored the importance of cooperation with “like-minded countries” such as Japan.

“It’s important to cooperate with like-minded countries, especially our neighbors and uphold mutual interests,” Poe said.

Meanwhile, for his part, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said the Philippines should be entering more agreements of an economic nature.

In a text message, Pimentel said instead of a military nature, he is more in favor of agreements focused on economic cooperation, which would allow us to sell Philippine-made and Philippine-grown products/items to other countries.

“I hope that our agreements contain more of these; products instead of gunpowder,” he said.