TOKYO, Japan – The Philippines and Japan vowed to strengthen bilateral partnership and deepen cooperation in areas of mutual interest during the second official visit here of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who was pleased with Tokyo’s affirming a pledge of a total $9 billion in assistance for economic and infrastructure projects, including Metro Manila’s first subway system.
The two leaders also pledged cooperation on a wide range of regional concerns, including maritime security and the North Korean issue, as well as efforts against terrorism.
In a statement following his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, October 30, President Duterte reiterated the Philippines’ strong commitment to the strategic partnership with Japan.
“Our commitment and resolve show the desire to further expand cooperative ties. I dare say that, considering what we have accomplished and achieved, the Philippines and Japan are building a golden age of our Strategic Partnership,” Duterte said.
The President described his discussion with the Japanese premier as “very warm, open and comprehensive.”
“As Strategic Partners, cooperation between the Philippines and Japan is expansive and multi-dimensional. Both sides recognized today that there is still ample room for even more significant growth in all areas of mutual concern,” he said.
He said he was pleased with Japan’s reiteration of its full commitment to “give flesh” to the 1 trillion yen or close to $9-billion pledge of assistance to the Philippines to boost economic and infrastructure development in the next five years.
“This covers huge impact and high value infrastructure projects that my country needs to sustain and spur our economic growth. There will be some of the most ambitious and groundbreaking projects, including the Metro Manila Subway project, and major developments in the regions and provinces,” Duterte said.
He said the Philippines is ready to work with other Japanese companies as “new partners for growth”.
Counterterrorism, war on drugs, Marawi rehab
Duterte likewise thanked Japan for its continuing assistance in other areas such as countering terrorism and violent extremism, defense, capacity building, combatting illegal drugs and pursuing lasting peace in Mindanao.
Duterte also thanked Japan for its support for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of strife-torn Marawi City.
“It is, therefore, fitting and proper, that after the liberation of Marawi City from the grip of Maute terrorists, my first Official Visit overseas takes place in Japan — a true friend who has stood squarely behind the Philippines in my country’s onward advance [to] greater peace, progress and prosperity,” he said.
He also recognized the need to address issues confronting the region particularly the continuing missile launch test of North Korea.
“We condemn these tests and call on all concerned stakeholders to return to the negotiating table to peacefully resolve the situation,” he said.
Abe: shared maritime, regional concerns
For his part, Prime Minister Abe said it was a great honor to welcome Duterte whom he described as “dear and cherished friend.”
He pledged to provide “maximum support” for the restoration of Marawi and further strengthen support for Mindanao’s peace and development and its efforts toward the establishment of an autonomous government.
Abe also vowed to expedite the construction of a subway in Metro Manila and improving projects for the North South Commuter Rail.
He said Japan would implement medium to long term action plans related to illegal drugs and measures for maritime safety, terrorism and security.
“We will proceed with cooperation to enhance coastal surveillance capacity building. And we will further provide support to strengthen safety in Sulu and Celebes Seas and other parts of the region,” he said.
“I conformed with President Duterte that we are both maritime nations sharing basic values and strategic interests. And as such, Japan and the Philippines will cooperate to address common issues such as North Korea nuclear and missile issue and the only resolution of the abduction issue and realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific and also counter measures against terrorism and illegal drugs,” he added.
“I would like to work hand in hand with my close friend President Duterte to further deepen the bonds of friendship between our two countries and we’ll cooperate towards peace and prosperity of the region and international community,” he further said.
The two leaders also vowed to further promote bilateral cooperation in energy, employment creation, information and communication technology, environment, agriculture and disaster reduction.
The Japanese premier likewise pledged his “full support” to the Philippines’ Chairmanship of ASEAN this year hoping that all meetings would be successful.
“We will provide full support to ASEAN’s attempts to strengthen unity and centrality and its attempts to develop a free and open community,” he said.
Before the Joint Press Event, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and his counterpart Foreign Minister Taro Kono signed the Exchange of Notes on Yen Loan for the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Management Project.
Duterte also witnessed the signing of 18 Letters of Intent (LOI) from Japan’s private sector, estimated at US$6 billion worth of investments.
Separate courtesy calls were also made by Mr. Katsuyuki Kawai, member of the House of Representatives, Foreign Minister Kono, and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) President Shinichi Kitaoka.
Before departing Tuesday, the President is scheduled to have an audience with the Japanese Imperial couple, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
“I’m grateful for the kindness and compassion of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko when Their Majesties visited the Philippines last year during the 60th anniversary of the normalization of Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations. I am eager to convey my deep respect and admiration for His Majesty,” said Duterte.
This is the second official visit of Duterte in Japan upon the invitation of Prime Minister Abe. He said he was honored to be the first ASEAN Head of State and Government to visit Tokyo after Abe’s sweeping victory in the snap elections.