By Argyll Geducos and Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has secured a 25-billion-yen commitment from Japan for the development of Mindanao, particularly in the region’s road network, vocational training facilities, equipment, and other projects.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave the commitment during his joint press statement with Duterte following their seventh Summit meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, Friday evening.
Duterte and Abe also agreed to continue to strengthen the two nation’s strategic partnership.
They agreed to enhance cooperation on infrastructure development, trade, and investments, defense, agriculture, maritime security, among others.
The two leaders also tackled “the modalities for greater cooperation in upgrading the Philippines’ defense capabilities, including in maritime security and maritime domain awareness,” according to the Palace.
“They explored opportunities to tap the demographic complementarity between the two countries to drive economic growth, including the possibility of Japan opening its door to skilled foreign labor,” Malacañang said in a press statement.
The President returned to the country Saturday morning from his Japan trip where he sought to enhance the country’s relations with “a friend closer than a brother.”
Aside from the 25-billion-yen commitment, Duterte brought home business deals from Japan amounting to $5.5 billion or P288.8 billion that are expected to generate more than 82,000 jobs to Filipinos.
The business agreements and pledges will mostly be in infrastructure, manufacturing, electronics, transport, and power.
In Friday evening’s meeting, Abe reassured Duterte of Japan’s continuous support to his projects following the victory of his bets in the recently concluded polls.
In his statement, Abe said the victory of Duterte’s eight senatorial candidates only shows how people approve of his policies and actions for the past three years.
“President Duterte, may I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the overwhelming victory that you had achieved in the recent midterm elections in your Republic. The result is a manifestation of the tremendous support shown to the President’s track record during the past three years,” Abe said.
“The government of Japan will continue our strong support for projects actively being promoted by the President such as the peace process in Mindanao and infrastructure development,” he added.
Mindanao peace process
Abe noted in his remarks that the peace process in Mindanao entered a new stage following the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in February.
The Prime Minister said Japan will continue supporting the peace process so the people of Mindanao can truly enjoy the peace dividend soon.
“I believe the priority lies in the strengthening of the administrative capacity of the Transition Authority and the facilitation of disarmament of soldiers of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Abe said.
Infrastructure and economy
Abe also shared that Japan is proud to be the largest partner supporting Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.
“We will continue to strongly support the sustainable economic development of the Philippines through assistance in quality infrastructure,” Abe said.
“The President conveyed appreciation for Japan’s renewed support for the government’s Build, Build, Build program, citing Japanese development assistance as the gold standard for the country’s development cooperation with other partner countries,” Malacañang said.
The Japanese leader also welcomed the decision of the Philippines to lift the import suspension of fishery products from Fukushima prefecture prior to the President’s visit to Tokyo.
“Safety of agriculture, forestry and fishery products of Fukushima is ensured through thorough inspections and other measures. Our government will continue to make utmost efforts to push for relaxation or removal of import restrictions imposed by some countries and wipe out the hurtful rumors,” Abe said.
Defense and security
Abe also noted that the Philippines and Japan are also working closely in the area of security by continuing to engage in joint exercises, providing support in capacity building, and seeking to deepen dialogue on the policy front.
Abe added that both the Philippines and Japan confirmed plans to strengthen their partnership amid challenges to realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law, full implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions towards the denuclearization of North Korea and early resolution of the abduction issue.
“With another milestone reached today, I look forward to working hand in hand with President Duterte to further deepen the bond of friendship between Japan and the Philippines and to contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity,” he said.
Duterte was in Japan for four days mainly to speak at Nikkei’s 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia.
Over the past week, the President also met and invited Japanese businessmen to explore opportunities in the country, and met with members of the Filipino community.
In the banquet hosted by Abe Friday night, Duterte said the Philippines and Japan share a “special bond,” citing the relations are marked by “deep understanding, respect for sovereignty, and mutually beneficial cooperation.”
“As I have said before, we are friends closer than brothers. That conviction remains unshaken,” he said.
“We are committed to making our strategic partnership even stronger as we work towards greater peace, progress, and prosperity for our nations and region,” he added.
Duterte voiced optimism that the Philippines-Japan partnership would continue to grow.
“Together, our nations can become an even stronger force for positive change for our peoples and the larger Asia-Pacific region,” he said.
“Let me repeat: Japan is a friend closer than a brother. This is no mere pronouncement. This is the truth, as our actions and deeds continue to define. That is a bond marked by honor and will endure through time,” he added.
The President rode a small private aircraft during his Japan visit to save funds, after lamenting that taking a chartered Philippine Airlines airplane could cost a P5 million daily during his trip.
The President’s Cabinet members and other presidential staff who joined the Japan trip were also encouraged to take commercial flights to cut cost.
READ MORE: Abe vows support for Duterte’s projects