By ARGYLL CYRUS B. GEDUCOS
TOKYO, Japan – President Duterte met with Japan’s Royal Family, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, for the first time at the Imperial Palace here, Tuesday.
According to a Malacañang statement, the President was accompanied by his long-time partner Honeylet Avanceña.
ROYAL WELCOME – Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko welcome President Rodrigo R. Duterte and his partner Cielito ‘Honeylet’ Avanceña, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan, on October 31, in this handout picture provided by the Imperial Household Agency of Japan. (Reuters)
Duterte was supposed to pay a courtesy call on Emperor Akihito during his first visit to Japan in October 2016, but the meeting was canceled following the death of the Emperor’s uncle, Prince Mikasa at the age of 100.
There was another attempt for the President to meet the Japanese imperial couple last June, but it did not push through because of the Marawi siege.
According to Malacañang, Duterte personally extended his appreciation and gratitude for the kindness and compassion of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko when they visited the Philippines last year on the 60th anniversary of the normalization of Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations.
Malacañang’s statement about the visit was not able to provide much details, but according to incoming Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, details about meetings with the Royal Family are not usually released.
Duterte’s meeting with the Japanese Imperial Couple was the last among his engagements during his two-day official visit in Tokyo, Japan.
During his pre-departure speech in Davao City late Sunday night, Duterte expressed his intention to behave when he meets Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Duterte acknowledged that he would have to keep his words in check during his first meeting with Japan’s current Emperor. But he made sure that he will be sure to express how grateful the Philippines is to the Asian superpower.
“I suppose that I have to limit my mouth there, except maybe to bring the warm greetings of the Filipino nation, a grateful nation to Japan, as a matter of fact,” Duterte had said.
The President had also said that he will personally convey gratitude to the Japanese royal family “for Japan’s friendship with the Philippines, which has grown stronger under His Majesty’s reign.”
“Our ties and friendship with Japan is most valued, and as we recognize our meaningful shared history, we will continue to be forward-looking in our relations,” he added.
Hours before his meeting with the Imperial Couple, Duterte posthumously conferred the Gawad Sikatuna, with the Rank of Raja, or the Grand Collar, on the late Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda.
In the citation, Fukuda was conferred the prestigious award “for his significant role in helping usher in an era of cooperation, peaceful relations, trust and friendship between Japan and ASEAN, through his articulation of the 1Fukuda Doctrine’ on 18 August 1977 during his visit to Manila.”
Under the doctrine, Japan will no longer strive to strengthen its military might, and will no longer aspire to become a military power in Asia.
“For his unequalled leadership in shaping and guiding Japan’s relations with the nations of Southeast Asia including the Philippines, such that Japan has become one of the staunchest supporters of ASEAN centrality and unity, regional stability, connectivity and overall development,” the citation also read.
According to Malacañang, Duterte also had a brief chat with the descendants of Fukuda following the conferment.
The Order of Sikatuna is a diplomatic merit conferred upon diplomats, officials and nationals of foreign states who have rendered exceptional and meritorious service in fostering, developing, and strengthening relations between the Philippines and their respective countries.
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