MANILA – (UPDATE, 11:55P.M.) There is no intent to hide details of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s trip to Japan this weekend, Malacañang Palace and the Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday. And, in a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the working visit, slated Oct. 29 to 31, will definitely enhance already strong bilateral relations between the Asian neighbors.
According to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, even he had no idea of the exact date of the trip, because arrangements for the Tokyo trip had been uncertain, and the exact details had to be set by the host country.
DFA spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said it had been normal practice among countries to first forge an agreement between the governments of the host and the visiting leader on when exactly details of a trip are to be disclosed.
“As normal practice in these kinds of visit, there is an agreement between the Philippines and the other country, in this case Japan, to announce it simultaneously and we cannot announce it without having to pin down the most important details,” said Bolivar.
Many quarters were taken aback when the Japanese government announced Wednesday that Duterte was visiting Tokyo, because the announcement came too close to the departure date. It sparked apprehension that Philippine officials were reluctant to open the coverage to media despite an avowed policy of transparency.
Abella described the discussions for the trip as “on and off.” He added, speaking partly in Filipino, “it wasn’t really clear, you know. Even I, I didn’t actually know when, so it’s not as if I know and we were keeping it. No.”
To enhance bilateral ties
Duterte’s working visit to Japan on October 29 to 31 is intended to further enhance the strong bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan, according to Abella.
In a press briefing, Abella said Duterte will discuss matters of mutual interest to both countries with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He said Duterte is also scheduled to meet other high-ranking Japanese government officials and influential captains of industry.
This will be the President’s second visit to Japan. Abe himself will make a second visit to the Philippines to attend the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in mid-November.
Abella said aside from bilateral issues in the economic, industrial, social and security arena, discussions are also expected to include regional developments, including peace and stability in the region, particularly in the Korean Peninsula.
Both sides are also expected to engage in dialogue relative to the Philippine chairmanship of ASEAN and preparations for the Prime Minister’s own return visit to the Philippines for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila this November.
In the same press briefing, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said Duterte’s second visit “is evidence of the strong and deep bonds between the Philippines and Japan.”
“We note that the Philippines and Japan’s interests converge on many points, in the political, economic, socio-cultural, and people-to-people fronts, and we are committed to further strengthening our cooperation on these many areas in the bilateral, regional, and UN levels,” Bolivar said.
He said aside from bilateral issues in the economic, industrial, social, and security arena, discussions are also expected to include regional developments including peace and stability in the region, particularly in the Korean Peninsula.
For his part, Takehiro Kano, Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Japanese Embassy, said Duterte and Abe will discuss various issues such as economic infrastructure development, Japan’s support for the Mindanao peace process, illegal drug measures, and security and counter-terrorism measures.
They are also expected to discuss regional issues such as North Korea and the South China Sea, matters that will also be discussed in the ASEAN Related Leaders’ Summit meeting.