By Roy Mabasa and Genalyn Kabiling
Japan will remain as the Philippines’ “steady partner” in strengthening the country’s defense capabilities as the two sides continue to explore new areas of cooperation in regional security and military modernization.
This was contained in a joint statement issued by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Sunday shortly after their bilateral meeting in Davao City where they discussed areas of mutual interest including political, economic, and people-to-people exchange.
Kono is on a three-day visit to the Philippines where he led the ceremonial opening of the Japanese Consulate General office in Davao. He met with President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday and is flying back to Japan at noon on Monday.
“Just as significantly, we reviewed our defense and security engagement and pledged to persist in our efforts to open new doors for cooperation in this field – in terms of equipment, education and training, and other modalities. Japan will stay our steady partner in strengthening our defense capabilities as we modernize our armed forces and bolster maritime security in the region,” Locsin said in a joint statement he read in behalf of Japan and the Philippines.
In the statement, both Tokyo and Manila said this particular cooperation is taking place “under the intense pressures of the larger regional security situation,” most notably the maritime disputes in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea and the Korean Peninsula.
“We both recognize that the regional security environment is fraught with challenges, including in the West Philippine Sea and the Korean Peninsula. As maritime countries with unique similarities; as neighbors whose sea lanes of communication may be similarly affected by recent developments; we recognized the imperative of further bilateral cooperation. At the same time, we acknowledged that keeping and promoting the region’s peace and stability is a collective responsibility; one that must be underpinned by mutual trust, sincere dialogue, and functional cooperation,” Locsin said.
The two sides also touched on the development in Mindanao where Japan has invested more than P13 billion in the form of assistance to various projects to help the region attain “the dividends of a long-promised and much-delayed peace.”
“We emerge from this morning’s meeting freshly confident about prospects for realizing Mindanao’s promise in the wake of positive, indeed striking developments, in bringing Bangsamoro to reality,” they said in the statement, in reference to the just-concluded plebiscites on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) held last January 21 and February 6, respectively
Japan also reiterated its commitment to the P24 billion program called “The Road Development Project in Conflicted-Areas in Mindanao,” a goal that would allow communities long ravaged by conflict “to heal, to live and work in safety, and enjoy the dividends of peace.”
Support for Mindanao
Japan has pledged to continue to support the peace and development initiatives in Mindanao following the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
“During their meeting at Matina Enclaves here, President Duterte said he was honored that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is in his city,” the Palace said.
“Foreign Minister Kono, for his part, said Japan welcomes the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. He also mentioned that Japan would like to continue to support the development of Mindanao,” it added.
During the same meeting, Kono relayed Japan’s sympathy to the victims of the two explosions that hit the Jolo Cathedral last month.
Foreign Minister Kono was accompanied by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda and Davao Consul General Yoshiaki Miwa during the meeting with the President.
Also present were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel.