In a significant step towards bolstering their defense cooperation, the Philippines and Canada formally signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday, with Manila's defense minister expressing optimism that this agreement could pave the way for a troop pact between the two nations.
Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro highlighted the strong intention on both sides to deepen and strengthen relationships, potentially culminating in a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). While Teodoro did not specify the form or structure of a potential VFA with Canada, he noted that the existing VFA with the United States allows for the rotation of American troops in and out of the Philippines for various military drills and exercises.
The memorandum is set to catalyze collaboration between the defense and military establishments of both countries, encompassing military education, training exchanges, information sharing, peacekeeping operations, and disaster response.
Teodoro emphasized the importance of mutual trust and confidence as the strongest assets in their bilateral relations. By dealing with each other in a straightforward, open, and rules-based manner, he expressed confidence that this trust would endure political changes and stand the test of time.
Canada's support for the Philippines, particularly in response to China's increased assertiveness in the South China Sea, has been notable. Canada backed the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that dismissed China's claims in the South China Sea as having no legal basis, a stance rejected by China.
The signing of the memorandum follows a prior arrangement in October between the Philippines and Canada regarding the use of Ottawa's Dark Vessel Detection (DVD) system. This system aims to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by vessels that have turned off their location transmitters to evade detection. Beyond addressing fishing-related challenges, the DVD system is expected to enhance the Philippines' maritime domain awareness over its territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, where it has encountered maritime confrontations with China.
This positive development reinforces the commitment of both nations to collaborative efforts in defense and maritime security, further solidifying their diplomatic ties.