Closer ties between Duterte’s PH, Abe’s Japan » Manila Bulletin News

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President Duterte is back from his state visit to Japan with the usual announcement of economic assistance, including the reiteration of a pledge of one trillion yen – $9 billion – in assistance to help fund the massive infrastructure program of the Duterte administration in the coming years.

The first loan agreement was signed Monday, the first day of the President’s state visit. It was for a 15.92 billion-yen (P7.25 billion) loan for the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Risk Management project. One project that will impact on the lives of Metro Manilans will be a subway system that should effectively solve the area’s traffic problem.

But more than economics, the Philippines and Japan are developing very close ties in the wake of the personal relations developed between President Duterte and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. When the prime minister visited the Philippines last January, it was not the usual ceremonial call in Malacañang complete with military honor guard. He went to the President’s home in Davao City where he was received like family.

The prime minister disclosed in Tokyo last Tuesday that his visit, posted on Facebook, hit more than a million viewers, mostly Filipinos around the world. President Duterte in his own remarks in Tokyo thanked Prime Minister Abe and his wife for hosting what he described as a “reunion between friends.” This is a friendship going “beyond official lines,” he said.

There is this element in relations among Asian nations that is not usually seen in most of the rest of the world. This is the personal element that influences official relations. This is the human element that reacts strongly to personal attacks, such that Asians like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un have lashed out at United States President Donald Trump. “Saving face” can be more important than a candid rational assessment of a situation.

President Duterte and Prime Minister Abe are Asian leaders who understand, appreciate, and respect each other, and their personal relations will bring our two nations closer together. We will keep our old ties with the US and develop closer ones with China and Russia, but we see the Philippines and Japan coming much closer to each other in the coming years because of President Duterte and Prime Minister Abe.

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