President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday paid tribute to outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and prayed for the fellow leader’s speedy recovery.
In a statement, Duterte hailed Abe, Japan’s longest serving premier, as “a leader with a bold vision and firm determination.”
“The bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan, now a strategic partnership, greatly flourished during his tenure,” Duterte said, as both countries have one of the closest partnerships in Asia.
The President expressed “much regret” when he learned about Abe’s resignation.
“What we have worked for and achieved together lays the foundation for an even closer friendship and cooperation between our countries in the future.”
Abe, 65, announced his resignation on Friday due to his worsening ulcerative colitis.
For Duterte, Abe, the first foreign leader to visit him when he took office in 2016, is “to me and the Filipino people – a true friend closer than a brother.”
“To Prime Minister Abe, I pray for your speedy and full recovery!” he said.
Duterte also recalled that Abe was “gracious” in accepting his invitation when the Japanese leader visited his house in Davao City in 2017.
Abe toured Duterte’s abode in Davao City and had the chance to see the Philippine leader’s “favorite mosquito net.”
“I and Honeylet welcomed him and Madame Akie warmly to my humble home,” Duterte recounted.
“I will not forget Prime Minister Abe’s kindness and strength of character,” he said.
Abe has visited the Philippines four times – first in 2013, followed by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in 2015, his 2-day official visit in January 2017 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Summit in November 2017.
The 65-year-old Japanese leader said he would stay in office until his successor is chosen through a poll of selected members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The four-year term of Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, would have ended in 2021.