Japan, a friend closer than a brother

Published July 15, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Senator Francis Tolentino


Senator Francis N. Tolentino

On July 8, 2022, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated in the streets of Nara, Japan. I was deeply saddened by the passing of a strong and admirable leader. I had the opportunity to meet him before and to this day, I still remember his cheerful yet firm manner.

Coincidentally, the month of July is the Philippines-Japan Friendship month. We commemorate the normalization of the diplomatic relations on July 23, 1956. This year, we are celebrating the 66th anniversary of solidarity, trust, and mutual understanding between the two countries.

According to the Department of Finance, Japan is the top source of the Philippines’ official development assistance (ODA) over the last 20 years. As of 2021, Japan’s ODA to the Philippines accounted for $14.139 billion worth of loans, which is 72 percent of our foreign aid portfolio.

The ODA, as defined in Republic Act No. 8182, otherwise known as the Official Development Assistance Act of 1996, is a loan or loan and grant from the government of foreign countries administered to promote the sustainable social and economic development and welfare of the Philippines.

Over the years, Japan has been a strong supporter of our infrastructure development efforts. In fact, Japan, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, would provide around $1.95 billion funding for our Metro Manila Subway Project. This project, once built, is said to reduce travel time between Valenzuela City and Ninoy Aquino International Airport from one hour and 10 minutes to just 35 minutes.
We would also benefit from the joint ventures with Japanese private construction companies from their decades of advance and innovative expertise and knowledge in subway construction.

In the health and safety aspect of this pandemic, Japan donated vaccines and medical equipment and further gave us loans for to expedite our pandemic recovery.

In Mindanao, Japan launched farming technology transfer programs to support the Mindanao farmers in their agricultural training on new farming technology. This aims to raise our farmers’ productivity and income. Economic infrastructure development assistance was also provided in the area in terms of flood forecasting and management, and the construction of infrastructure and facilities for public service, among others. Japan also led campaigns and programs to promote the peace in Mindanao.

In terms of maritime safety and international relations, Japan proactively advances cooperation with our country in realizing a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” by collaborating with the Philippines and other countries in the region to enhance the enforcement of maritime law and the rightful authority of the Philippine Coast Guard within our territorial seas.

During the 65th anniversary of the Philippines-Japan Friendship last year, Former Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide and our former President Rodrigo Duterte expressed their optimistic view that the friendship of the two nations would continue to prosper and appear stronger as we enter another year of closer ties amid the rising geopolitical tensions in the region.

This commitment for a stronger bilateral relation is seen in Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s call on the Philippines to deepen economic and security cooperation as we usher in a new administration. According to reports, our President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. said that the Philippines’ relations with Japan were of “utmost importance” and that he intends to deepen these ties under his term.

As we mark the 66th anniversary of this friendship, let us remember the significant role played by former Prime Minister Abe in strengthening the Philippine-Japan alliance over the years. Under his leadership, the Philippines’ relationship with Japan matured into one centered on mutual respect, cooperation, and support. In the words of former President Duterte – “Japan is a friend closer than a brother.”