February 17, 2021 at 12:15 am
Ernesto M. Hilario
"The new ambassador said our bilateral relationship was solid and strong."
Our relations with our close neighbor to the north, Japan, remain as robust and dynamic as ever.
Proof positive of this is that President Rodrigo Duterte warmly welcomed the designation of new Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhiko Koshikawa during the latter’s presentation of his credentials last December 14.
Ambassador Koshikawa is in familiar territory. He once served as senior executive vice president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which helped us with funding for several infrastructure projects that contributed to our consistent economic growth over the years.
With the Japanese Embassy in Manila still very much in good hands, we are optimistic Ambassador Koshikawa can help bring our bilateral ties to achieve even greater heights in the years ahead.
The Japanese Ambassador said earlier that he would exert more efforts to increase bilateral trade and investments.
“As my diplomatic mission here in the Philippines begins, I shall exert every possible effort to further galvanize the foundations that make our bilateral ties special,” he said.
He has also pledged to promote cooperation in such areas as infrastructure development, disaster risk reduction, medical and health sector advancement, agriculture, Mindanao peace process, and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
President Duterte in fact hailed Japan as a friend who is “closer than a brother,” and expressed gratitude for Japan’s assistance to our COVID-19 response and active support for our economic development agenda.
When Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga talked on the phone last December, they agreed to cooperate closely to prevent the spread of the coronavirus contagion.
“Surely, the Philippines is not alone in its fight against COVID-19. With the combined efforts of our public and private sectors, we will get through this public health challenge in due course,” the Japanese envoy pointed out.
Last week, Ambassador Koshikawa announced that Japan would extend assistance to our efforts to contain the coronavirus. He also urged private Japanese firms operating in the country to help the Philippine government in the fight against the spread of the deadly disease.
In his remarks during the turnover of 5,000 units of state-of-the-art UV-C irradiation devices to the Department of Health at Okada Manila, Koshikawa stressed the importance of a strong partnership between Japan and the Philippines despite the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The envoy referred to our bilateral ties as “solid and strong.” It’s an accurate assessment, from where we sit.
“Japan is in close cooperation with the DOH for grant assistance to cover medical supplies and equipment, as well as laboratory surveillance sites. The same is also true for our clinical trial cooperation for the anti-flu drug Avigan,” he said.
The Japanese ambassador likewise said Tokyo has extended two massive budget support loans “to augment the Philippine government’s COVID-19 war fund.” He, however, did not provide details of the official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines.
At the turnover ceremony attended by officials of the Universal Entertainment Corp., Okada Manila’s operator, headed by its Director Kenjie Sugiyama and Department of Health Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Leopoldo J. Vega, the Japanese envoy reiterated his call for Japanese firms operating in the country to extend a helping hand in our efforts to minimize the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The envoy described Universal Entertainment Corporation (UEC) and its subsidiary Okada Manila as “making another mark today…this time, as a contributor to the government’s pandemic response”, after the company donated UV-C handy irradiation sanitizers to the DOH. He described the donation as “a good example of private sector engagement that we are in great need of.”
Koshikawa emphasized that not only the Government of Japan but also the Japanese private sector “demonstrated these acts of solidarity with the Filipino people. From Japanese universities and medical experts to Philippine-based Japanese companies—they have proven that kind gestures and initiatives, such as this donation from UEC, go a long way. I hope more and more Japanese companies would follow suit.”
The UV irradiation devices would be a big boost to the DoH drive against COVID-19 since these can be placed in hospital doors and restrooms where the virus is located. This is the second donation of UEC to the Philippine government since the start of the pandemic. In June last year, UEC donated 500,000 pieces of face masks as part of countermeasures against the spread of Covid-19.
For his part, Sugiyama said UEC and Okada Manila remain committed to lending full support to the Philippine government and the Filipino people at this critical juncture. The five-star integrated resort, he said, is not only supporting Philippine efforts to revive tourism but is also an active partner of the government in propelling socio-economic growth that would help reduce poverty levels and improve the quality of life of Filipinos in the years to come.
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