Foreign Affairs chief Alan Peter Cayetano said on Friday that the Philippine government has formed an inter-agency group that will look into the controversial “Comfort Woman” statue that was erected to honor Filipino women who were forced into sexual servitude by Japanese soldiers during the World War II.
Cayetano however could not disclose the DFA’s recommendation as the probe is still ongoing, but hinted that the erection of the bronze statue along Roxas Boulevard will “affect certain feelings and relationships.”
“The official stand is not of the DFA but of the Philippines for several years is that it has been officially part of the reparation and it has officially been settled. Having said that, that doesn’t stop any group and any individual and the Filipinos in general from seeking any kind of settlement, justice, etc.,” Cayetano told the reporters in a press briefing.
“Thare’s no final finding yet from the inter-agency group and I think they are still in the stage of fact-finding, who put it up, why did they put it up, where do they put it up, who for the permits,” he added.
Cayetano said that he should have been consulted before the local government of Manila erected the controversial statue.
He added that issue involving relationships between the Philippines and other countries will always be his concern.
“Honestly? I believe anything that affects international relationships, there should have been consultations,” Cayetano said, citing that any individual or organizations are entitled of their freedom of speech.
“We are talking about public space. If it’s a private space, you can do what you want,” he said.
Cayetano pointed out that it will be challenging to strengthen ones relationship long-term if one of them keep on bringing up the past.
Aside from the DFA, government agencies that may be involved in the issue are the Department of Public Works and Highways, the city government of Manila and the National Historical Commission.
In a marker attached to the bronze statue wearing a blindfold, said that the comfort woman statue was erected in memory of Filipino women forced into sexual servitude by Japanese soldiers during the World War II.
The issue on comfort women remains a very sensitive diplomatic issue between Japan and Asian neighbors that it invaded.
In November, Osaka has decided to cut its ties with San Francisco after it built a sculpture in memory of comfort women in one of its parks.
The Japanese embassy in Manila also confirmed that it already sought explanation from the Manila City Hall headed by former President and Mayor Ejercito Estrada.
Cayetano said he is not aware of any diplomatic protest filed by the Japanese embassy in Manila against Estrada.
Meanwhile, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, together with the Department of Health, joined the groundbreaking ceremony for the grant-aid Dangerous Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Sarangani Province.
Chinese Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Counsellor Jin Yuan was present during the event to give his remarks. Jin said the project is the result of President Duterte’s state visit in China in 2016 and one of the many benefits that resulted from the enhanced cooperation and healthy relationship between the two countries.
“The Chinese government will always extend a helping hand when our close neighbor and friend is in need,” said Jin.
Counsellor Jin also mentioned China’s provision of cash assistance after the earthquake in Surigao City, machine and equipment grants for the rehabilitation of Marawi, and the financial assistance for the areas struck by typhoon Vinta.
“I believe under President Duterte’s leadership, together with the efforts of the Philippine people, the disaster-affected areas will soon be rebuilt into even better places,” he said.
“China will continue mutual beneficial cooperation with our Philippine counterparts. I believe with our joint efforts, we will share a very bright future together.” he added.
On behalf of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Undersecretary Roger Tong-An attended the event and expressed his trust in the continued friendship between China and the Philippines
“Truly, our undertakings do not only build facilities but also build networks and synergies… whatever good things we build end up building us,” he said.
“Let us continue to weave collaborative strategies as we introduce meaningful transformation and significant change for our people… Let us all bear the torch of change and be a beacon of hope for the society especially to those who have fallen victim to the lure of illicit drugs,” Tong-An added.
Sarangani Governor Steve Chiongbian Solon and Mayor Vic Paul Salarda also delivered messages, expressing appreciation to the Chinese government and hopes for continued healthy relations between the two countries and their peoples.
The two Dangerous Drugs Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Centers, located in Sarangani and Agusan del Sur respectively, is the first Chinese grant aid construction project in the Philippines.
When completed, the project will provide two modern and scientific drug rehabilitation centers that will provide the Philippines with a comfortable treatment environment for the patients. The gross floor area of each center is 6750 sqm which could fit approximately 150 beds. Each center would house an Admission or Administration Building, a Pavilion/Transition Villa, a Staff House and Motor Pool building, a Male and Female Dormitory building, and a Multi-purpose covered court among others.
The construction of the rehabilitation centers is estimated to be finished within 21 months.