OF TREES AND FOREST
Last Oct. 30, 2023, my family and I trooped to the Las Piñas City National Science High School in Talon Dos to cast our votes for the Barangay and SK Elections. I was joined by my wife Cynthia and my children Mark, Paolo and Camille. The voting went smoothly and I would like to congratulate all the teachers and other election officials and workers who made our exercise of suffrage sans any suffering.
I was elated to see my fellow voters from Las Piñas eagerly casting their ballots. In particular, I was very happy to see our young people exercise their right as a citizen of the republic. The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) might have its issues and problems but in theory it is a unique way of introducing our youth to the idea of responsible citizenship.
Electing our leaders at the barangay level — the smallest unit of government in the Philippines but also the frontline of democracy — is an important responsibility of every citizen. It is at the barangay that we see governance in a direct fashion, where citizens directly experience public service that actually impact their daily lives.
Overall, the recent elections was an important event for national development and Philippine democracy.
Another important event that transpired was the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. This visit was significant because it comes at a time when tensions are high between China and the Philippines over disputed territories in the region. It also comes at a time when the Philippines-Japan bilateral relations is at its zenith.
President Bongbong Marcos welcomed the esteemed Japanese leader and expressed his hope that the visit will “further make concrete progress in bilateral cooperation projects together with Japan.”
In response, Prime Minister Kishida pledged that both the Japanese public and private sectors would continue to support President Marcos’ “Build Better More” policy, including the development of infrastructure such as the Dalton Pass East Alignment Alternative Road and the Manila Metro Subway.
More importantly, the Philippines and Japan confirmed to pursue the possibility of public-private partnership in infrastructure development together with ODA through the Japan-Philippines High Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation, and to promote the creation of innovation under collaboration among businesses including through industrial cooperation dialogues, in order to strengthen bilateral economic ties.
But the more significant output of the Prime Minister’s visit was in the area of regional security and defense cooperation. In particular, both leaders announced the start of negotiations on the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), a pact that provides the legal framework for greater bilateral security cooperation — while expanding trilateral ties with their common defense ally, the United States.
My family and I attended PM Kishida’s address before a Joint Session of Congress. In his speech, the Prime Minister emphasized the need for security cooperation: “In the South China Sea, trilateral cooperation to protect the freedom of the sea is under way.” He assured President Marcos and our legislators that his country “will continue to contribute to the enhancement of the Philippines’ security capabilities, thereby contributing to regional peace and stability.”
This is certainly a vote of confidence as regards the strategic importance of the Philippines as an ally of both Japan and the United States. Japan has referred to us as an “irreplaceable partner” and I think it is not an exaggeration to say that Japan is an indispensable ally as we navigate the treacherous future of regional geopolitics in Asia and the world.
We thank the good Prime Minister and the Japanese people for their friendship and assistance. We deeply value our partnership and hope that we can continue to bolster bilateral relations for the good of our peoples. (firstname.lastname@example.org and/or http://www.mannyvillar.com)