Duterte, Abe discuss comfort women, South China Sea in meeting

MANILA, Philippines – Comfort women, South China Sea issues, and the development of Subic Bay were among the topics taken up by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their bilateral meeting on Monday, November 4.

The two leaders held their meeting on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

Malacañang did not elaborate on the specifics of Duterte and Abe's talk on comfort women, merely mentioning it in the list of topics discussed.

The last time Duterte made his position known on concerns of comfort women, it was to back the removal of a comfort woman statue along Roxas Boulevard in Manila that he said may be "insulting" to the Japanese.

The two leaders also "touched on" international concerns like the South China Sea dispute and North Korea's missile launches.

"On the South China Sea issue, both leaders discussed the drafting of the Code of Conduct to address tensions in the affected region, while on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, both leaders talked about the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's latest ballistic missile launch and the longstanding issue of abduction of Japanese nationals," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.

The spokesman did not mention if Duterte and Abe spoke of specific incidents in the South China Sea. Duterte has yet to speak publicly about a Chinese ship's claim of Chinese jurisdiction over Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) to a commercial ship passing through the area.

The shoal lies within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

New consulate in Nagoya

Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations are also set to get a boost from a planned new Philippine consulate in Nagoya.

Abe welcomed the plan during the meeting.

The Metro Manila Subway, meanwhile, was highlighted in the two leaders' discussion on Build, Build, Build infrastructure projects. The project, slated for completion in 2025, is being built with help from the Japanese government. Construction began in February, with Japanese officials attending the groundbreaking ceremony.

In March 2018, the Philippine government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency signed a ¥104.53-billion (P49.08-billion) loan agreement for the subway, the first in a series of deals.

Other domestic matters that were discussed included the "development of Subic Bay," the dispatch of skilled Filipino workers to Japan, and tariffs on Philippine bananas and other fruits.

The two leaders exchanged condolences on tragedies that recently struck their countries. Duterte expressed sadness over the deaths and destruction caused by Typhoon Hagibis and a fire that destroyed the historical Shuri Castle, a Unesco World Heritage Site in Okinawa.

Abe, meanwhile, expressed sympathy for the victims of the 3 strong earthquakes that struck parts of Mindanao in October.

Talk also turned to sports when the two discussed champion Filipino gymnast Carlos Yulo's participation in the 2020 Summer Olympics to be hosted by Tokyo. Yulo trains in Japan. – 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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