MANILA – Canada and the Philippines are hoping to sign the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defense cooperation by January 2024, a deal that could also open up opportunity for a visiting forces agreement (VFA).
In an interview on Friday, Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines David Hartman said the two governments have concluded the deal’s final language and hope to sign it “very early in the new calendar year.”
“Our minister has talked about, let's explore next a visiting forces agreement, right? So, once we have this defense MOU under our belts, then that will allow us to open up a whole world of opportunities,” he said.
Hartman added that a possible VFA with the Philippines would be the newest Canada could have in Asia as it shifts focus to the Indo-Pacific.
The Philippines has visiting forces agreements with the United States and Australia, providing legal framework for the presence of one country’s forces in the other.
Manila had also decided to commence negotiations for a similar deal with Japan, to be called the Reciprocal Access Agreement.
Hartman said he believes Canada can become a “very stalwart partner” of the Philippines both in counterterrorism and territorial defense.
The envoy said Canada’s push to bolster its defense cooperation with the country also shows its commitment to the region under its new Indo-Pacific strategy.
He did not close the doors on a future “joint patrol” with the Philippines in the South China Sea.
“We’ve had joint sails so far. Until we have a defense treaty we can’t do joint patrols,” he explained.
“But one can only imagine, as we deepen and broaden our engagement here, those would be areas of opportunity that we wish to explore,” he added. (PNA)