Japan’s Abe flashes the fist, Duterte-style

COMMONSENSE - Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star
Japanâs Abe flashes the fist, Duterte-style
Photo shared by PMS head Secretary Bong Go on Facebook shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Duterte with Filipino and Japanese officials flashing Duterte’s trademark fist gesture.

TOKYO – On their first meeting on the side of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos last September, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told President Duterte that he was “quite a famous figure” in Japan and that he was “very excited” to see him in person.

As he welcomed Duterte here for a visit upon his country’s invitation, Abe again let loose a bit by posing for a photo with the Philippine leader doing the signature fist bump.

It was more than what was expected of the Japanese leader in extending his hand of friendship. The Japanese, after all, are known for being sticklers for protocol and seriousness.

Abe was also happy to note that Duterte was fond of Japanese food and one of their bilateral meetings lasted 72 minutes.

During the dinner that Abe hosted for Duterte and members of his delegation on Wednesday night at the Prime Minister’s residence, Abe hoped Duterte would be able to revisit Japan to enjoy the local cuisine.

Describing the three-day visit as a “great success,” Duterte said the relationship between the two countries “stands on unshakeable, firm ground by all counts” and that ties between the Philippines and Japan “are just excellent.”

There was no major hitch during the visit except that the President’s courtesy call on Emperor Akihito was cancelled due to the death of the royal’s uncle.

On a lighter note, Davao-based trader Sammy Uy said the photos showing them doing the fist bump with Abe and Duterte were taken after the Prime Minister called him to have his photo taken with him after dinner. 

Abe then asked, “What is that for?” when he saw Duterte and some members of his delegation having their photos taken with the trademark gesture, Uy said.

Uy, who described himself as a “small” businessman who happened to be close to the special advisers of Abe, said the Prime Minister then joined Duterte and his team and the others followed.

“We are proud, our President is so contagious,” Uy, owner of Davao Farms Corp. who had contributed P30 million for Duterte’s campaign in the last elections, said.

Uy said Abe was impressed with the President and that he found him “very sincere,” always thinking about the poor and the country.

He said the President was also very much concerned with his dignity and would never allow the Philippines to be insulted.

Uy said Abe “understands” Filipinos, unlike the “Americans who looked down on us.”

Uy was part of the business delegation. His good relations with the Prime Minister were bolstered by his friendship with Abe’s special advisor Katsuyuki Kawai, whom he described as a kind of counterpart of special assistant Christopher Go, the President’s trusted aide.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said senior Japanese government officials told him they were also very impressed by Duterte’s passion “to protect his people” and that it was “one of the very rare times a leader had been received like this.”

“Apparently, he’s starting to be at this stage informally recognized… not just a regional but as a world leader,” Abella said.

In an ambush interview after the demonstration exercise by the Japanese Coast Guard in Yokohama, Duterte was obviously happy with how his official visit turned out.

“It was a very productive visit… the Prime Minister, we had almost about four hours of talk time and it covered a wide range of issues that would affect both countries… everything was discussed,” he said.

Duterte said his visit reaffirmed the friendship, cooperation and solidarity of the Filipino people with Japan, the country’s number one donor in terms of assistance.

Duterte also noted how the Japanese government was helping the country build up its maritime defense.

Full bloom

In welcoming Duterte in his official residence last Wednesday, Abe expressed hope that the relationship between the two countries would develop in full bloom.

“Mr. President, Japan is giving a rousing welcome to you upon your first time visit to Japan and between Japan and the Philippines, there is a deep, warm, family-like or brotherly relationship and my sincere hope is to develop our future in full bloom together,” he said.

At the start, Abe apologized for some delay in their schedule as the two leaders held bilateral meetings and witnessed the signing of agreements to help bolster maritime, agriculture and economic cooperation.

“Mr. President, I recount that you have a passion for Washoku Japanese cuisine and that is exactly why I took the initiative to prepare the Washoku for you tonight,” Abe said. “If you like it, please do come back to Japan as you wish to enjoy another batch of Washoku.”

Duterte said the Philippines-Japan relationship was borne out of mutual respect and trust.

“It is a relationship strengthened by a common commitment to uphold democracy, adherence to the rule of law and a peaceful settlement of disputes,” he said. “As countries and peoples that have shared a meaningful history, we now look forward to a future together as we chart a common path towards our aspiration for greater peace, progress and prosperity and beyond.

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