Japanese Prime Minister Yushihide Suga announced that he was not seeking election as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which means that he will step down as Japan’s premier when his term as LDP leader ends on September 30 this year.
Becoming leader of the LDP, in effect, means being elected prime minister as the LDP leads the majority coalition in the Diet, Japan’s parliament. The Diet elects the prime minister of Japan.
Suga has faced widespread criticism from the Japanese people over his alleged poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which critics say resulted in the spike of cases. He was also railed for his government’s slow vaccination rollout and even for his decision to proceed with the just-concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the midst of the raging pandemic.
Before his election as prime minister in September last year, Suga served as chief cabinet secretary of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also stepped down due to health reasons, after serving eight years as leader of Japan.
It is interesting to note that besides Suga, the other Japanese premiers who only served one year in office were Yoshiniko Noda, Naoto Kan, Yukio Hatoyama, Taro Aso, Yasuo Fukuda, Yoshiro Mori, and even Shinzo Abe when he was first elected prime minister from 2006 to 2007. Sosuke Uno served as premier for only 68 days in 1989.
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party is a member of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), a Philippine-led initiative founded and launched in Manila in September, 2000 and which now represents some 350 ruling and opposition parties from 52 Asian countries.
There are reportedly some 300,000 Filipinos living in Japan, while there are approximately 17,000 Japanese nationals residing in the Philippines.
Although, rightfully, our attention and efforts are focused on stamping out this coronavirus pandemic, let us not negate other threats of nature that have been besetting our country and the world for many years now and for which we have been warned about.
One of which is environmental degradation which, sadly, most of us have been taking for granted, if not completely ignore. Environmental experts have repeatedly warned that this clear and present danger will explode in the near future.
This global threat is becoming more and more serious that the World Economic Forum last January, 2020, launched a program to “grow, restore, and conserve one trillion trees around the world and in a bid to restore biodiversity and help fight climate change.” As we mentioned in our column much earlier, we were elated by the said initiative by the World Economic Forum as we have been advocating a “Trillion Trees Program” in the international community since our earlier years as Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives and as Founding Chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) as well as in the various international organizations which we are privileged to serve.
We believe reforestation and tree farming, on the scale and intensity the planet needs, can and must become a significant jobs-creating economic stimulus for developing countries, if not all countries, that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the regional banks, parliaments, political parties, and civil society should champion.
Massive tree planting can become a virtuous circle – of planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing timber and replanting, a forever cycle – that can generate tens of millions of jobs worldwide for poor young men and young women in the emerging countries, apart from addressing food shortage and expanding upland agriculture, and especially, contributing in a most significant way in the battle against climate change and environmental degradation.
Trees control mountain erosion, prevent the silting of streams and rivers, save human life from destructive floods that overflow the rivers, destroying fish farms, crops, livestock, cities, towns, villages, and hard-won economic gains.
We proposed much earlier that these programs can be organized through what we may call “Billions of Trees Foundations” managed by civil-society groupings, and strongly supported by governments, parliaments, and the political parties, or perhaps, even better, undertaken by governments themselves, and actively supported even managed by the private sector.
We wish to note that in 1933, during the Great Depression, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservative Corps (CCC), composed of some six million young jobless Americans, which, in less than 10 years, built more than 800 parks and planted three billion trees nationwide.
Roosevelt put the then younger Douglas MacArthur, before he became the legendary World War II hero, in charge of the Civilian Conservative Corps, or what many described as Roosevelt’s Tree Army.