Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

What you need to know about Marcos’ visit to Japan

Bea Cupin

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What you need to know about Marcos’ visit to Japan
The visit is his third in 2023 and his first to Japan as President

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to visit Tokyo for an “official working visit” from February 8 to 12, 2023. 

This trip will be his third foreign travel in 2023 alone and his 9th in just over seven months in office. In January 2022, he flew to China for a state visit and then to Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) calls the visit “consequential,” referring to the Philippines’ deep ties with Japan. 

Here’s what you need to know about the jet-setting President’s latest planned trip. 

Why Japan? 

Marcos, according to DFA Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Neal Imperial, is visiting Japan upon the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The two leaders first met in September 2022, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. 

The Philippine president had previously referred to the trip as a state visit. While both state and official visits are upon the invitation of a host country, the state visit is considered the highest level of international visit, reflecting the honor and formality in relations between two countries.

Japan is a key ally and the only country with which the Philippines has a standing bilateral free trade agreement, the Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. Manila’s other FTAs are via the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) or with other regional blocs. 

Japan is also the Philippines’ second-largest trading partner, its third-largest export market, and third-largest source of exports. Japan is also the Philippines’ largest source of Official Development Assistance or loans and grants from foreign countries with which the Philippines has ties. The funds are used for social and economic development. 

Japan is also a key ally in discussions on regional security. 

At the East Asia Summit in Cambodia during the ASEAN gathering, Kishida spoke out against China’s “continued, increasing” actions in the East China Sea while emphasizing that the stability in the Taiwan Strait is key to regional security. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok, Japan and South Korea joined a United States-led emergency meeting to condemn a North Korea missile test.   

Who are going with Marcos? 

Marcos will be accompanied by his usual entourage with a few additions, at least to the official delegation. First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos will again join the trip. 

Other top public officials in the official delegation include former president and Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Speaker and presidential cousin Martin Romualdez, first-time delegate member Senate President Miguel Zubiri, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo, and Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil. 

A “large business delegation” will also be flying to Japan for the official visit, but neither the Department of Foreign Affairs nor the Palace has released the list as of posting time. As of February 1, over 150 individuals have signed up to be part of the business delegation, said Imperial. 

The Palace has not disclosed who else will be joining the visit, although Imperial did mention that other officials – including other Cabinet officials and undersecretaries – would join the delegation. 

For what, exactly? 

As in other visits, Marcos will hold a bilateral meeting with his counterpart. Kishida, Marcos, and top officials from Manila and Japan will also be part of a working dinner on February 9, Marcos’ first full day in Tokyo. 

The President and the First Lady will also be granted an imperial audience with Emperor Naruhito and Empress Michiko, but the details of the event have yet to be made public. 

During the visit, at least seven bilateral agreements are expected to be signed. While the DFA has yet to release the full list, the bilateral agreements include: 

  • Umbrella terms of reference on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, to be signed by defense ministers
  • Exchange of notes with regard to loan agreements on infrastructure, signed by the foreign affairs ministers. The deals will later be signed by finance ministers.   
  • Proposed agreement on cooperation in the field of communications and information technology, to be signed by the Philippines’ Foreign Affairs Secretary on behalf of Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy, who will not be able to join the trip
  • Memorandum of cooperation of agricultural cooperation, which will be signed by the Philippine Agriculture Department’s Senior Undersecretary, since President Marcos is concurrently the agriculture chief

Marcos will also join several business meetings. “The economic aspect is equally important… The President is devoting a lot of time to ensure that we attract Japanese investors,” said Imperial. 

Marcos will meet with the Filipino community on his last day in Tokyo.

What won’t be discussed? 

Imperial, responding to queries during a presser with Palace media, said developments in the “Luffy” robberies in Japan and their links to Japanese citizens detained in the Philippines won’t be discussed. 

Imperial said the Philippines’ justice department is already on the case. 

Marcos is also not expected to bring up the case of comfort women – Filipinas who were subjected to sexual and physical violence by Japanese soldiers during World War II – since “all war-related claims are deemed to be settled,” said Imperial. 

Imperial also said that even as a 1950s-era agreement settled war-related crimes by Japanese soldiers in the Philippines, the Philippine government will “not prevent private claims” by individuals. – Rappler.com 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.