MT. SAMAT, Bataan: The United States and Japan on Thursday renewed vows to secure the Pacific region, including the Philippines, from maritime threats.
In their speeches during the commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) here, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa pledged to strengthen maritime cooperation with the Philippines.
“Recently, our collaboration has been expanding through security and defense cooperation, too. Our cooperation in maritime security issues based upon the rule of law is a good example. Just this January, two defense ministers signed a memorandum of defense cooperation and exchange in Tokyo,” Ishikawa said.
Japan and the Philippines are dealing with an aggressive China in the East China Sea and West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), respectively.
China invoked its “nine-dash line” theory to claim almost the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines uses the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as basis for its claim.
Manila has questioned China’s claim and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had completed a five-man panel that will hear the case.
Beijing has refused to take part in the arbitration proceedings.
In his speech, Ishikawa also stressed the improved relationship between and among the Philippines, Japan, and the US.
“We are very pleased to work together with the Philippines, the United States, and all of our partners to this end. Seventy years ago, we were enemies. Now, we are friends, close friends. May this friendship be forever,” he said.
He also apologized for the suffering that Japan caused during the war.
The Philippines and Japan have been broadening their security cooperation at sea as they both deal with their own respective maritime territorial disputes with an increasingly aggressive China.
The US has also been expanding its own defense cooperation with the two countries as part it’s strategic “pivot to Asia.”
Ishikawa and Goldberg joined President Benigno Aquino 3rd in the brief, moving rites that recalled one of the saddest episodes of World War II in the Far East.
Goldberg said the Death March that followed the Fall of Bataan — in which tens of thousands of Filipino and American soldiers who surrendered were forced by the Japanese to march 100 kilometers to Capas, Tarlac — remains “one of the cruelest, yet most inspirational stories in the annals of war.”
“Let us not forget that 70 years after the end of World War II, we are joined in our efforts to protect the security and defense of this region by Japan. Yesterday’s enemies are today’s allies and strategic partners,” the US envoy added.
Goldberg said America’s commitment to defend the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty remains “ironclad.”
“Whether we are fighting terrorism or responding to the devastation of natural disasters, we face them together. And when the Philippines is threatened, it is not alone,” he said.