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MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Thursday, January 11, that President Rodrigo Duterte will not do anything about the controversial comfort woman statue erected in Manila, as it downplayed the potential diplomatic repercussions of the project.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement in response to questions about the statue – a monument to Filipino women forced to become prostitutes servicing the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II – which a visiting Japanese official had called “regrettable.”
Kyodo News reported that during her courtesy call on Duterte on Tuesday, January 9, Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda expressed disappointment over the comfort woman statue along Roxas Boulevard.
“It’s regrettable for this kind of statue to suddenly appear,” Noda supposedly told the Philippine leader. (READ: Japan’s discomfort with history and the PH dilemma)
As far as Malacañang is concerned, Duterte would not step in since he had no participation in the project to begin with.
“It’s not something the President will act on himself. We didn’t erect the statue so it’s not a presidential project, so to speak,” Roque said.
When told the statue has the seal of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, which is under the Office of the President, Roque said the media should address their questions to the NHCP.
Malacañang also said it did not consider the comfort woman statue as a diplomatic issue. Roque said this even after the Department of Foreign Affairs asked Manila officials to explain the process that led to the project, since the Japanese embassy expressed concern over it, according to a Philippine Star report.
“I don’t think it is really a diplomatic issue, ‘no,” said Roque, who remained confident that the statue would not strain bilateral ties between the Philippines and Japan.
“We have every reason to be optimistic that bilateral relations with Japan will become even stronger,” he added.
The comfort woman statue, unveiled on December 8, 2017, had stirred controversy for reviving a sensitive issue.
Manila City Hall and the NHCP had been pointing fingers on who should answer for the erection of the statue, allegedly without permits.
One Japanese news organization noted how the statue was funded by Tulay Foundation, a Filipino-Chinese non-governmental organization, and several Chinese donors.
Japan is one of the Philippines’ biggest sources of official development assistance.
Back in November 2017, the Osaka City government terminated its “sister city” ties with San Francisco after the US city accepted a similar memorial to comfort women. – Rappler.com