Duterte, Abe affirm defense cooperation, peaceful solution to sea row

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dealt with a wide range of topics during their bilateral meeting in Japan – from Mindanao development to the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Abe, delivering his statement after their meeting on Wednesday, October 26, affirmed Japan's decision to give the Philippine military TC-90 training airplanes as well as "high-speed small vessel and equipment" for counter-terrorism efforts.

The Japanese leader also expressed support for a peaceful settlement of maritime disputes that could come about with the compliance of concerned countries to an international court ruling last July that nullified China's expansive claim in the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Philippines wins case vs China)

"With regards to arbitration award, we have confirmed the importance of the peaceful resolution of maritime disputes," said Abe through an interpreter.

After the Philippines' legal victory over China in July, Japan officials urged both countries to comply with the "legally-binding" ruling.

Duterte, in his speech, also declared his commitment to the "rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes including [in] the South China Sea."

'Closer than a brother'

The Philippine President described his meeting with Abe as "productive and fruitful" after expressing his gratitude to the Japanese people for their warm hospitality.

He thanked Japan for being one of the Philippines' biggest sources of Official Development Assistance. 

"Japan's Official Development Assistance for the Philippines is second to none in terms of value and positive impact on the lives of Filipinos," he said.

He described Japan as "the Philippines' special friend who is closer than a brother." (FAST FACTS: PH-Japan relations through good and bad times)

Though the two left out specific details, the need for infrastructure, both in metropolitan and rural areas in the Philippines, was discussed.

Japan has been active in helping the Southeast Asian country develop its infrastructure, even giving a multi-billion-peso loan for the Tutuban-Malolos railway.

Abe also touched on an issue close to Duterte's heart: Mindanao development.

"Japan supports endeavors of President Duterte with regards to peace in Mindanao," said Abe.

Duterte, in turn, welcomed "the ongoing intiative with Japan that supports the Philippine government's efforts to realize Mindanao's full potential."

Duterte and Abe's bilateral meeting took place on the second day of the former's 3-day official visit to Japan.

Below is the joint statement issued after the meeting:

Philippines-Japan Joint Statement

26 October 2016

On the invitation of the Government of Japan, His Excellency Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines, undertook an Official Visit to Japan from 25 to 27 October 2016.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and His Excellency Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a productiveSummit Meeting in a friendly, forward-looking and constructive atmosphere. With a view to further promoting the "Strategic Partnership” of thePhilippines and Japan as two maritime countries bound by shared basic values, the two leaders statethe following:

1. The two leaders recognized the visit of President Duterte as a significant visit, to celebrate the 60thanniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries. The visit is an important milestone in the bilateral relationship which highlights the depth of bilateral relations and further enhances exchanges and cooperation.

2. With the aim of sustaining a peaceful and active relationship between the East Asian and Southeast Asian regions, the two leadersreaffirmed that the two countries fully commit to further strengthening the Strategic Partnership based on such common values as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, respect for basic human rights, and a free and open economy. They also discussed continuous cooperation of the two countries to strengthen the bilateral relationship and to maintain regional peace and stability. 

3. The two leaders shared the recognition that the security environment in the region is faced with many challenges, and decided to further collaborate to maintain peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. 

4. The two leaders affirmed that the two countries share common interests in maintaining and promoting peace, stability and prosperity regionally and globally as maritime nations in Asia.  

5. The two leaders emphasized the need to ensure maritime safety and security which are vital elements for the peace, stability and continued prosperity of both countries and of the region.

6. The two leaders affirmed Japan’s significant contributions over the years to the efforts of the Philippines to strengthen its maritime capabilities through human resource development, capacity-building assistance and provision of patrol vessels and other equipment for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), taking into account the long history of cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the PCG. On that basis, they shared the intention to further cooperate in various areas of common interest for maritime security and safety.

7. The two leaders welcomed the signing of the Exchange of Notes on Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA) Loan for the two large-scale patrol vessels to the Philippines as well as the steady progress in the provision of ten patrol vessels, which Japan had already decided to provide. President Duterte expressed hisappreciation for Japan’s continuous support in this field.

8. The two leaders also welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Implementation and Letter of Arrangement for the transfer of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)'s training aircraft TC-90s. Prime Minister Abe expressed his intention to continue enhancing security and defense cooperation, including training the Philippine Navy pilots and enhancing the capacity of its infrastructure.

9. President Duterte expressed his appreciation for Japan’s intention to provide high-speed boats and other equipment to enhance the Philippines’anti-terrorism capabilities.

10. The two leaders shared the view that they would further enhance bilateral dialogues and policy consultations at all levels.

11. Maintaining open and stable seas is essential in the region. The two leaders shared the view that the South China Sea holds sea lanes vital for global economic activity and viability. In this regard, the two leaders stressed the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, as well as anti-piracy efforts and cooperation.

12. With regard to the South China Sea Arbitral Award, the two leaders acknowledged the importance of a rules-based approach to the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the UN Charter and other relevant international conventions. The two leaders emphasized the importance of self-restraint and non-militarization.In this regard, they also acknowledged the importance of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), the Joint Communiqué of the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of 24 July 2016, the Chairman’s Statement of the 19th ASEAN-Japan Summit of 7 September 2016and the Chairman’s Statement of the 11th East Asia Summit of 8 September 2016.

13. The two leaders look to their network of friendships and alliances, in particular the ever stronger ties between the Philippines and Japan, to help promote the peace, stability and maritimesecurity of the region.  

14. Prime Minister Abe reaffirmed Japan’s support for ASEAN centrality and the latter’s vision of ASEAN 2025:  Forging Ahead Together. Looking forward to the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017, Prime Minister Abe extended assurances of Japan’s continued support for a rules-based, people-oriented and people-centered regional community driving ASEAN connectivity and inclusive growth. President Duterte acknowledged Japan’s contributions to ASEAN community building through the ASEAN-Japan Strategic Partnership for Prospering Together and the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership, among other arrangements.

15. President Duterte extended an invitation for Prime Minister Abe to visit the Philippines at a convenient time. Prime Minister Abe accepted the invitation with pleasure.

Issued in Tokyo, 26 October 2016

Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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