MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III left on Tuesday morning, June 2, for his first state visit to Japan against the backdrop of improving maritime security cooperation between the two countries amid China's massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea.
In his departure speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, Aquino said the Philippines has proven to be not just a recipient or foreign aid, but an able player in the resolution of regional challenges – a message that he will bring in meetings with Japanese leaders and businessmen during his trip.
"Napatunayan natin ang ating relasyon sa ibang bansa ay hindi na lamang para tumanggap ng kanilang kabaitan: Handa na rin tayong tumulong sa paglutas ng mga hamong hinaharap at haharapin ng ating rehiyon," he said.
(We have proven that our relationship with other countries is not just limited to being the recipient of their kindness: We are ready to help resolve the challenges faced by our region.)
The President noted that over the last 59 years, Japan has given assistance and support to the Philippines way beyond its "obligations," and cited, among others, the country's help in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and the peace process in the Southern Philippines.
He added, "Kasama din natin sila sa paninindigang ang rule of law ang dapat mamayani upang makamit ang patas at makatwirang resolusyon sa usapin ng teritoryo (We are together in saying that the rule of law should prevail to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution to our territorial issues)," Aquino said.
The Philippines has played a key role in opposing China's claims in the South China by filing an international arbitration case, a move to resolve the maritime conflicts that has gained support from various countries.
Transfer of military assets
Among the anticipated topics for discussion during the President's Japan trip is the possible transfer of military assets to the Philippines as part of joint efforts to deter China's aggressiveness in disputed territory.
Philippine officials have said that the South China Sea dispute is expected to be in the agenda in Aquino's bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart, as part of wider discussions on regional matters and issues of mutual concern.
It's going to be a packed 4-day state visit for Aquino who will be welcomed by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, who will host a banquet for him. He will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The Emperor and Aquino will award to each other the highest honor given to heads of state for their assistance to their respective countries. Aquino will receive the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum, while Abe will be conferrred the Order of Lakandula with the rank of Supremo.
Abe will get the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Rajah.
In a rare opportunity, Aquino will also attend the joint session of Japan's Congress, the National Diet, and address the Japanese lawmakers.
He will also meet Japan's business leaders including officials of Nippon Keidanren, Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Keizai Doyukai, and Boekikai. He will attend the Nikkei 21st International Conference on the Future of Asia organized by the biggest media group in Japan.
"Ibabahagi po natin doon ang mga repormang ipinatupad natin sa ating pamahalaan, na nagbunga ng positibong pagbabago para sa ating mga kababayan (We will share with them the reforms of my administration that has led to positive changes for our people)," he said.
He will meet with Filipinos in Japan, including the 9 Philippine Military Academy cadets who participated in an exchange program with the National Defense Academy of Japan; and Filipino nurses and caregivers deployed under the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.
Malacañang has earmarked P34.6 million for the trip, covering expenses for transportation, accommodation, food, equipment, and other requirements of the Chief Executive and his 60-member delegation.
Members of the delegation include Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
The others are Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, and Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria. – Rappler.com