Philippines, Japan entering 'golden age of partnership'

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Philippines, Japan entering 'golden age of partnership'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at their joint press conference at Abe's official residence in Tokyo Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Duterte won pledges from Japan of help with fighting terrorism and assistance in building the country's crumbling infrastructure during a visit to the country. Toshifumi Kitamura/Pool Photo via AP

TOKYO – The Philippines and Japan are entering a “golden age” of strategic partnership, President Duterte said yesterday, as he thanked the Japanese government for its readiness to support his programs and the rehabilitation of battle-torn Marawi City.

“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 (for) our strategic partnership,” Duterte said after his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“It’s a commitment founded on the democratic values we hold dear. It’s a resolve that has withstood the test of time. Working together, we should have much to show and to be proud of in the years to come,” he added.

Duterte is here for a two-day official visit that seeks to boost the ties between the Philippines and Japan. His visit came days after Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won an overwhelming victory in recent snap elections.

It was his second visit to Japan, which occupied the Philippines for three years during World War. Duterte first visited the East Asian country last year.

 “As strategic partners, cooperation between the Philippines and Japan is expansive and multi-dimensional. Both sides recognize today that there is still ample room for even more significant growth in all areas of mutual concern,” Duterte said.

Abe said it was a great honor to welcome Duterte, whom he described as his “dear and cherished friend.”  

He also vowed to provide “maximum support” to the Duterte administration’s efforts to rebuild Marawi City, which was ravaged by five-month-long clashes between government forces and Islamist militants.

“We will provide maximum support to the restoration and reconstruction of Marawi City and we will strengthen support of Mindanao toward the establishment of an autonomous government,” Abe said.

 “Regarding the declaration of liberation of Marawi in Mindanao, I’d like to express my heartfelt respect for the leadership exerted by His Excellency President Duterte going forward in his efforts to fight terrorism and also for the stability in Mindanao and the development; and in his attempts to ensure this, we would like to provide full support to President Duterte’s approaches,” he added.

Duterte thanked Abe for supporting the Philippines’ efforts to address terrorism and violent extremism and his readiness to provide timely assistance to residents affected by the Marawi crisis.

“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,” the President said.

Duterte said he was also honored to be the first Southeast Asian head of state and government to visit Japan since Abe’s electoral victory.

Japan promised to swiftly provide equipment for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi and surrounding areas. The Japanese government will also consider extending further assistance including possible support for road construction and improvement.

Duterte also welcomed Japan’s willingness to provide a 1 trillion yen or about P430 billion package for the Philippines’ development projects.

“I am pleased with Japan’s reiteration that it is fully committed to – as he described it – “give flesh” to the 1 trillion yen or close to nine billion dollars pledge (of) assistance to the Philippines,” the President said.

“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,” he added.

Abe vowed to fast-track the building of a subway in Metro Manila and the implementation of projects for the North South Commuter Rail.

He said his government would implement medium to long term action plans related to illegal drugs and measures for maritime safety that would include efforts against terrorism.

“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,” the Japanese leader said.

Abe said the mobile cooperation team launched this month by the Coast Guard would be conducting training exercises in Manila.

“The Coast Guards of Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia will be participating toward the realization of an Indo-Pacific which is a free and open. We hope that this will be a model case for cooperation,” he added.

The two leaders also promised to further promote bilateral cooperation in energy, employment creation, information and communication technology, environment, agriculture and disaster reduction.

“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,” Abe said.

“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 added.

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