MANILA, Philippines – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lauded improving ties between Manila and Beijing on Thursday, January 12, as the Japanese leader embarked on a two-day official visit to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I welcome the fact that President Duterte is making efforts to improve Sino-Philippine relations in light of the arbitral award,” Abe said through a translator, referring to the ruling of an arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, against China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Abe then pointed out that “the significance of the rule of law, peaceful resolution of disputes, and non-militarization have been confirmed” at related meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2016.
“Keeping in mind this year’s ASEAN affiliated meetings, we affirm the importance of these,” Abe said.
Abe made these comments as Duterte seeks closer alliances with China, which also has a territorial dispute with Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea.
Abe spoke after a meeting with Duterte in Malacañang on Thursday – part of his official visit that includes a trip to Duterte’s hometown, Davao City.
In his statement, Abe also pledged one trillion yen in official development assistance and private sector investments over the next 5 years.
Japan to help Davao
On aiding Mindanao, aside from helping in peace and development, he said that “a decision has been taken to start studies for the urban development and flood control of Davao City,” which is Duterte’s hometown.
He added that Japan welcomes “the signing of the exchange of notes on the provision of high-speed boats” to aid in counterterrorism.
Duterte, on the other hand, said the Philippines and Japan “have a shared interest in keeping our waters safe and secure from threats of any kind.”
Duterte said this collaboration is hinged on “capacity building and assets acquisition and upgrading.”
“As we seek these new innovations to the Philippines’ capabilities, we will continue to forge ahead with our efforts to advance the rule of law in order to secure the waters in our regions,” the Philippine leader said.
On the southern Philippines, Duterte said both Manila and Tokyo “reaffirmed the need to ramp up efforts to bring just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao.”
Duterte also said the Philippines welcomed “the expressed interest of Japan to support measures to address the tremendous social cause of drug addiction,” and this “includes rehabilitation.”
“By any measure, this visit is historic and sets the bar for constructive engagements,” Duterte said.
He added: “If my visit to Tokyo defined the solid and strategic partnerships of the Philippines and Japan then Prime Minister Abe’s visits to Manila and Davao renew the commitment to further strengthen the solid and strategic partnership toward greater peace, progress, and prosperity.” – Rappler.com
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