MANILA, Philippines – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday, July 27, announced “4 initiatives” that are intended to strengthen relations with the Philippines.
The visit by a Japanese Prime Minister is the first after 6-and-a-half years, but it is also Abe’s second visit to the country. Referring to the Philippines as a strategic partner, Abe listed the 4 initiatives as follows:
- Provide a standby credit loan for disaster response
- To promote maritime cooperation, Japan is contributing assistance to capacity-building for the Philippine Coast Guard
- To strengthen assistance to the Mindanao Peace Process and benefit future economic development, Japan is providing a topographical map of Mindanao. (The topographic map was presented by the Japanese Prime Minister to President Aquino.)
- To encourage people-to-people exchange towards the promotion of tourism, including the relaxation of visa requirements starting July. This includes increasing the number of scheduled flights and promoting youth exchanges to advance mutual understanding.
Abe said bilateral relations are rooted in a long history of friendship and exchange.
For his part, President Benigno Aquino III said the Philippines will continue to initiate reforms to make the country a stable investment destination.
He said he hopes the growth will redound to development.
Japan is the country’s top trading partner — in 2012, bilateral trade amounted to US$16.35 billion. It is also the largest source of development assistance for the Philippines, the 2nd largest source of approved investments which, in 2012, amounted to P69 billion.
Japan is likewise the country’s 3rd largest source of tourists, with over 400,000 Japanese visiting the Philippines in 2012.
Aquino also said both of them reviewed security challenges that confront their two nations, in apparent reference to China. Tension has risen between China and Japan, which accuses China of asserting its claim over unpopulated islands in the East China Sea. Similarly, the Philippines has protested China’s claims over islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Aquino said the two nations pledged to cooperate in “advancing our common advocacy for responsible action from international players.” He added that this can be done by “upholding the rule of law in international affairs, and by finding just and peaceful solutions to our territorial disputes and maritime concerns.”
Last June Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Japan and the Philippines had agreed to “further cooperate in terms of the defense of remote islands… the defense of territorial seas as well as protection of maritime interests.”
Earlier, President Aquino welcomed Abe to Malacañang Palace where the Prime Minister received full welcome honors at the Palace grounds.
He will head back to Japan this afternoon after a press conference. – Rappler.com
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