Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri (File photo)

MANILA – Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Thursday urged the Philippine and Japanese governments to begin exploratory talks on a possible Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) now that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is on a five-day official working visit to Japan.

In a media interview at the Okura Hotel in Tokyo, Zubiri, who is part of the Philippine delegation for the President’s state visit, recalled that he had already brought up the idea of pursuing VFA with Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Koshika Kazuhiko last year.

The Senate President said that while formal talks about the VFA have yet to reach Marcos, this is an opportune time for him to raise the issue with Prime Minister Kishida Fumio.

"It makes strategic sense. Japan is an ally, and with ongoing territorial disputes over our waters, we stand to benefit from stronger security cooperation with our allies," Zubiri said.

He noted that Japan is already offering vital support to the Philippine Coast Guard -- not just through vessels and equipment but also through other capacity-building opportunities such as training — and a VFA will further strengthen the partnership between the two countries.

Zubiri however clarified that “peaceful diplomacy” remains our foremost move toward conflict resolution, “but we also have to be prepared for any eventuality.”

“With Japan on our side, we will be able to empower our Coast Guard and Armed Forces in times of conflict,” he said.

Besides being crucial to building up our security and defense, Zubiri said a VFA with Japan will also be massively helpful in times of natural calamities and disasters by using the their disaster management training and knowledge to help the Philippines become a more resilient country as well.

"Given all the benefits we stand to gain from the VFA, I am hopeful that we will be able to begin formal discussions about it soon, and I am pretty certain that we will be able to garner enough support in the Senate for it," Zubiri said. (PNA)