PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte leaves Sunday for a two-day visit to Japan until the end of the month to meet with the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, aimed at enhancing trade relations and influencing peace and stability in the region, particularly in the Korean Peninsula.
Japan, the country’s top source of official development assistance, is much concerned about China’s growing power in the South China Sea and sees cooperation with the Philippines, which lies on the waterway’s eastern side, as key to helping prevent the spread of Beijing’s influence into the western Pacific.
Before leaving, Duterte is set to give a departure statement at Davao City at around 8 p.m., where he is scheduled to outline the expected outcome in his visit to the country’s strong economic ally.
On Monday, Duterte is set to meet with high-ranking Japanese government officials and influential captains of industry.
Courtesy calls were set among and between President Duterte and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, JICA president Shinichi Kitaoka, while Prime Minister Abe will be hosting a dinner for him and the Philippine delegation.
Duterte will likewise witness the signing of business letters of intent and various documents and have a joint press statement.
On the second day of Duterte’s visit, Tuesday, he will be meeting with the descendants of the late Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, on whom he will confer the Gawad Sikatuna award.
Fukuda, the 42nd Prime Minister of Japan, made a cornerstone on which Japan’s foreign diplomacy has been guided by the Fukuda Doctrine, better known as “Kokoro-to-Kokoro”, or “Heart to Heart” Doctrine.
Duterte will also meet with former Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who chairs Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party Policy Research Council.
Capping Duterte’s visit is his audience with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, before leaving for Davao—arriving Tuesday night.
Duterte was to meet with Abe in June for bilateral talks on defense cooperation, but this was postponed due to the Marawi crisis, which began on May 23.
Duterte’s visit to Japan comes ahead of Abe’s attendance at the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and Related Meetings in November.
Although not an Asean member, Japan is among the dialogue partners invited to the summit.
Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said Duterte’s second visit to Japan was an evidence of the strong and deep bonds between the two countries.
Discussions are also expected to include regional developments, including peace and stability in the region, particularly in the Korean Peninsula.
“We want to reinforce the Japan-Philippines economic partnership,” Bolivar said.
For his part, Deputy Chief of Mission Takehiro Kano said Japan was considering the way forward, particularly on how it could support the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City.
“So far, we have already provided some humanitarian assistance with the international organizations. But now, we are in a different phase. And then we are in close contact with the Philippine government,” he said.
“I think there are various kinds of needs like the reconstruction of the communities or human resources and getting the people back to the communities and so forth. So based upon the needs assessment and information provided by the Philippine government, we are looking to what we can do,” he added.
Japan is the country’s top source of official development assistance for the first half of 2017.
Loans from Japan amounted to $4.84 billion, which is 44.83 of the total ODA received by the country during that period.
The Philippines has over six decades of diplomatic relations with Japan.
Duterte earlier visited Tokyo in October 2016, where he called Japan a “special friend who’s closer than a brother.”
Abe, who recently won in the snap elections, was also the first head of government to visit the country after Duterte won last year.
Duterte met with Abe in Malacañang and even welcomed the Japanese prime minister to his home in Davao City.
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