Duterte headed to Japan end of May
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will fly to Japan at the end of May to attend the Future of Asia international conference.
A gathering of political and economic leaders in the Asia-Pacific region, the Future of Asia forum will take place May 30 to 31 in Tokyo. The forum is organized by Nikkei.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen are also expected to attend.
To make the most of the trip, Philippine government officials will witness the signing of deals between Japanese and Philippine companies.
Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said at least two memoranda of understanding and 8 letters of intent are expected to be signed during the visit.
"There are big Japanese companies that we cannot also ignore. They still want to express their support and confidence in the current administration and they want to indicate their intent to invest more," he told reporters on Thursday, May 16, in Malacañang.
The deals are related to industries like electronics, manufacturing, data analytics, services, energy, transportation, and tourism, like the establishment of theme parks and hotels.
Duterte is also expected to give a speech at the forum, where Lopez expects him to bring up the Philippines' new credit rating upgrade, reforms in bureaucratic processes, and his campaign against corruption and red tape.
Lopez said he is hopeful that Duterte would hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Another economic issue Philippine officials would likely pursue in Japan is the reduction of tariffs imposed by Japan on Philippine bananas.
"We’re asking them to open up more their markets. We are the biggest exporter of bananas, but we notice our tariff rates, there's still room for them to go down so we're working on the reduction of tariff rates to gain more access to their market," said Lopez.
Duterte's attendance at the Japan-led forum comes after he attended China's Belt and Road economic forum last April – the 3rd international forum in China he has attended during his presidency.
Asked if Duterte's decision to join the Future of Asia forum stems from the necessity to "balance" ties with Japan given his attention to China, Lopez said, "Wala naman, wala naman kailangan i-balance (There's nothing to balance)."
In October 2017, Duterte also visited Japan to attend a Nikkei-organized economic forum. – Rappler.com