Aquino: PH-Japan ties 'global example of cooperation'
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Japan have overcome the "scars of the past" to become a "global example of cooperation and friendship" over the last 59 years, President Benigno Aquino III told Japanese business leaders on Wednesday, June 3.
Aquino made the statement at the Nikkei 21st International Conference on the Future of Asia-Special Session at the Okura Hotel in Tokyo, on the second day of his state visit to Japan.
In apparent referrence to the last world war, where Japan and the Philippines were on opposite sides of the battlefield, the Philippine leader said, "Japan and the Philippines 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."
"These past 59 years, our bond has grown to transcend diplomacy and set a global example of cooperation and friendship that leads to security in every possible aspect," added Aquino, who is on his first state visit to Japan.
Largest trading partner
He said that Japan is the Philippines' largest trading partner, with bilateral trade at $19.1 billion in 2014. Aquino cited the presence of Japanese companies and its popular brands in the Philippines which have become part of local life.
"The brands are familiar to many Filipinos: whether it is Mitsubishi or UNIQLO, Toyota or Epson, Honda or Yamaha, Ajinomoto or Yakult, among many others. Japanese brand names have become so deeply embedded in the modern lives of Filipinos. In fact, there is even a Philippine snack brand named 'Oishi,'" he said.
The President said that his administration has strived to improve the economy, leading to an average growth of 6.3% from 2010 to 2014, marking the country's fastest 4-year growth period in the last 40 years.
In the first quarter of 2015, the economy slowed down to 5.2%, bringing the average to 6% under his helm.
Given this, Aquino said, "it logically follows that our improved performance opens up greater possibilities to further synergize our economies."
"Japanese companies realize this and are demonstrating confidence through an even greater willingness to bet on our country and our people," he said.
Among these companies, he said, is Nidec Corporation which may build a research and development facility in the Philippines if the country can produce more engineers with masters and doctorate degrees.
'Gracious and faithful ally'
Aquino also cited the reasons why the Philippines considers Japan as a "gracious and faithful ally" – its help in empowering Filipinos, as the largest contributor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines; and in improving Philippine urban transportation, climate change adaptation, and its assistance in the peace process in Mindanao.
He noted that Japan was instrumental in his breakthrough meeting with leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2011, as it "opened its doors to us on very, very short notice" and "provided an environment where both sides could see the sincerity of their dialogue partners."
Aquino reiterated his determination to see through the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, which he described as a "major step in freeing thousands of our countrymen from the shackles of conflict and in attaining lasting peace and prosperity in the autonomous region."
"This was made possible with the help of our gracious and faithful ally – Japan, whose commitment to peace and security really shone through," he said.
Aquino again thanked Japan for its "steadfast" demonstration of solidarity with the Philippines as it advocates freedom of navigation and rule of law in the South China Sea "in the face of China’s unlawful territorial claim." (READ: Aquino: PH to 'pull weight' in South China Sea)
"We are united in the belief that the continued growth of Asia necessitates an environment where freedom of navigation is uninterrupted, and where the rule of law is respected by all, with no exception… For Japan’s support for our peaceful, lawful, and principled approach, again, we thank you," he said.
Aquino's Japan trip is expected to improve maritime security cooperation between the two countries amid China's massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
On a personal note, Aquino said Japan's solidarity with the Filipino people was evident in the years after the assassination of his father, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr, in 1983. He said Filipinos learned the truth about the tragic incident not from state-controlled media, but from taped investigative shows from Japan, "smuggled from household to household."
He added that when his mother, the late Corazon Aquino was lifted to the presidency following a popular revolt that ousted a dictatorship in 1986, "the Japanese people and their government stood alongside Filipinos once more by being one of the first countries to recognize my mother’s government."
Japan was also among the first countries to receive Mrs Aquino in her official capacity as president.
"Indeed, there is no denying Japan’s hand in encouraging and nourishing the democracy our country now enjoys," the President said.
Aquino arrived in Tokyo on June 2, and will return to Manila on June 5. – Rappler.com