MANILA, Philippines – The emperor and empress of Japan will be in the Philippines for a 5-day state visit in late January, the Office of the Prime Minister announced on Friday, December 4.
The Japanese embassy in Manila said that the itinerary of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko is being finalized based on consultations between the governments of both countries.
“Their Majesties are scheduled to leave Tokyo on 26th January 2016, and the duration of the visit will be 5 days,” the embassy said.
The visit – the first that a reigning emperor will make to the Philippines – is made more significant by the fact that 2016 “marks the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines.
In October, Malacañang said that the Philippines had started preparations for the royal couple’s visit.
“I am convinced that the visit will further strengthen the intimate relations of friendship and goodwill with the Philippines, and I feel immense pleasure together with the people of Japan,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement released by the Japanese embassy in Manila.
“Japan has long enjoyed close and cordial relations with the Philippines. The Government of the Philippines has long extended its invitation for Their Majesties to visit the Philippines, and President Aquino kindly renewed its invitation when he visited Japan last June as a State Guest,” Abe said.
Aquino cited the Philippines’ relations with Japan as a “global example of cooperation” when he paid a state visit in June. He said the two countries “know what it is like to overcome the scars of the past and build ties of friendship that promote each other’s stability and prosperity.”
Japan occupied the Philippines during World War II, 1942 to 1945, but has since become the country’s top source of official development assistance and leading trading partner.
In recent weeks, Japan announced that it is negotiating a “legal arrangement” with the Philippines to finalize a deal for the transfer of military equipment to Manila. The deal is being worked out as the Philippines continue to face Chinese aggression in the disputed parts of the South China Sea, which is locally called the West Philippine Sea.
After a bilateral meeting during the last day of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Manila in November, Abe said they are open to Aquino’s request to provide large patrol vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard, the main agency tasked to secure the almost 40,000-km coastline of the country.
The Philippines has also acquired a P93-billion ($1.99 billion) loan from Japan for a 36.7-kilometer railway connecting Tutuban, Manila, and Malolos, Bulacan. It aims to ease traffic congestion in the National Capital Region.
The Philippines and Japan also recently signed a social security agreement, where expatriate workers temporarily dispatched to either countries for 5 years or less “will be, in principle, covered only by the pension system of the country from which employees are dispatched.” – Miriam Grace A. Go/Rappler.com
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