Duterte accepts Abe invitation to visit Japan

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte has accepted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s invitation for him to visit Japan, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“Mr. President is quite a famous figure in Japan and I’m very excited to see you in person,” Abe told Duterte during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 28th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit here.

The DFA did not provide other details on Duterte’s possible trip to Japan.

Duterte also met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

During their 45-minute meeting, Abe talked about Japan’s plan to provide two ships and to lend five surveillance aircraft to the Philippines to strengthen its security capabilities.

“There is a general offer of continuing support to us in the Philippines and in the peace process,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told reporters in Vientiane.

“(The talks) went very well. Their advocacies coincided – the issue of the South China Sea, upholding the arbitral ruling, continuing support,” he added.

Last July, a Hague-based tribunal voided China’s sweeping territorial claim in the South China Sea but the Chinese government refused to recognize the decision.

Abe also deplored the bombing incident in Davao City on Friday night and expressed his sympathies for the victims and their families.

The Prime Minister assured Duterte of his country’s readiness to “develop cooperation in a wide range of areas” as Manila and Tokyo marked the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations.

For his part, Duterte thanked the Japanese government for its efforts to commiserate with the Philippines after the Davao City bomb attack.

He also expressed gratefulness for Japan’s assistance through the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

Trade is in favor of the Philippines, Duterte said, adding Japan saw to it that it was always a good economic and pre-eminent partner aside from being an “old friend.”

He also said the two countries were strategic partners who shared common values of mutual respect, cooperation and adherence to the rule of law.

The President cited Japan’s significant role in the development of the Philippines, most especially in the President’s home, Mindanao. He also expressed appreciation to Japan for its decades-long commitment to the peace and development of the Bangsamoro region.

Abe said Japan was committed to its participation in the socio-economic development of the Philippines, advancement of the two countries’ defense cooperation and provision of quality infrastructure to the Philippines.

The Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to further promote regional peace and stability, cooperate in counter-terrorism measures and continue the regular and productive tradition of high-level exchanges.

The two leaders agreed on the necessity of continuing law enforcement cooperation and projects, which would strengthen maritime capabilities of the Philippines.

Bilateral meet with Vietnam, Singapore

Duterte’s meeting with Dung also tackled the South China Sea row as well as Vietnam’s long-term commitment to supply rice to the Philippines.

“Everybody agreed that there must be freedom of navigation but on the whole, it was a very positive exchange,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

“On the economic front, Vietnam was encouraging the Philippines to come to Vietnam and invest more, have more trade and that they also made a long-term commitment regarding rice,” he added.

Abella said the two leaders merely discussed “general terms.”

“It was a very friendly, very positive, very affirmative relationship,” Abella noted.

Abella claimed no specifics were discussed with regard to China’s reclamation projects in disputed areas.

“It’s just that they were in agreement that there should be maritime freedom in the area,” he said.

Duterte also met with Lee, who congratulated him for winning the May 2016 polls.

The two leaders reaffirmed the long and close ties between their countries and looked forward to celebrating the golden jubilee of diplomatic relations in 2019.

Like Abe, Dung and Lee also invited Duterte to visit their respective countries. – With Alexis Romero

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