Like China counterpart, Japan's top diplomat to visit Davao

MANILA, Philippines – Japan's top diplomat, Foreign Minister Taro Kono, will visit Davao City to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and other Filipino officials to discuss a host of issues, including infrastructure and Japan's support for Mindanao.

Kono's official trip to the Philippines will take place from Saturday to Monday, February 9 to 11. 

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Kono's visit on Friday morning, February 8. The DFA said Kono is visiting the Philippines on the invitation of Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. 

Kono's visit comes months after his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi, also visited Duterte's hometown from October 28 to 29, 2018.  

Japan is China's rival in the Asia-Pacific region. Both Japan and China have been courting Duterte, as the Philippine leader strengthens ties with nontraditional partners in his personal contempt for the United States. (READ: Despite new friends, Philippines sticks it out with US in 2018)

The DFA said that aside from meeting Duterte, Kono will also meet with Locsin on Sunday, February 10.

"Foreign Minister Kono will meet with Secretary Locsin on February 10, 2019, in Davao to hold bilateral discussions on areas of mutual interest, including political, economic, and people-to-people engagement, especially Japan's support for infrastructure development and for Mindanao in the wake of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL)," the DFA said.

For more than 10 years, Japan said it has supported the peace process in the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao, which is plagued by a decades-long Muslim rebellion.

The BOL, which was recently ratified in a plebiscite, aims to ensure peace in the southern Philippines. Japan had dispatched a team to monitor this Bangsamoro plebiscite.

"While in Davao, Foreign Minister Kono is scheduled to call on President Duterte and meet with other Cabinet officials. Foreign Minister Kono will also grace the inauguration ceremony of the Japanese Consulate General in Davao," the DFA added.

When China's Wang visited Davao City in October 2018, he also met with Duterte and Locsin. Wang likewise inaugurated China's consulate general in Davao City. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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