MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine defense chief said Tuesday his government has agreed in principle to lease five Japanese surveillance planes to be used in patrolling disputed areas of the South China Sea and in search-and-rescue missions during disasters.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he plans to discuss with his Japanese counterpart the terms of the lease of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force TC 90 aircraft when they meet on the sidelines of an annual meeting of defense ministers in Laos later this month.
The Asian allies, which have separate territorial conflicts with China, have been deepening their security ties. They signed an agreement in February to allow Japan to supply defense equipment and technology to the Philippines, Tokyo's first such pact with any Southeast Asian country.
Japan's efforts to ease restrictions on its defense forces to provide equipment to Asian allies paved the way for Tokyo to offer the patrol aircraft to the Philippines, he said.
"This is a big help because we don't have such a capability, Gazmin said.
In a telephone call Monday with Gazmin, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani "reaffirmed the transfer" of the Japanese planes which will be useful for humanitarian and disaster-response missions and maritime security," the Philippines defense department said.
They agreed that cooperation by their countries "is indispensable," with Nakatani stressing the relationship "is crucial for peace, stability and prosperity" in the region, the department said.
Both agreed to reschedule a meeting after Nakatani postponed a trip to the Philippines last month because of twin quakes in southern Japan, it said.