By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines considers Japan a “friend closer than a brother” who treats the country as a sovereign equal, President Duterte said after bringing home billions of dollars worth of government and business deals from Tokyo.
The President returned to Davao City last Tuesday night from what he called his “most productive and engaging” visit to Japan where he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on revitalized bilateral cooperation in the next five years.
“We want our relations with Japan to grow even more. Japan is our friend closer than a brother. Japan treats us a sovereign equal,” he said during the President’s arrival at the Davao airport.
“The Philippines will work with Japan in building something special for our nations and peoples. We are building a golden age for our strategic partnership,” he added.
Sharing the gains of his Tokyo trip, the President said Japan has committed a trillion yen or almost $9 billion aid package to help improve the country’s infrastructure network.
Duterte said he discussed with Prime Minister Abe “concrete time-bound and specific ways” to further intensify bilateral cooperation, particularly on projects under the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” program that aim to sustain economic growth and improve the quality of life of Filipinos.
“Many more projects will be rolled off under Japan’s trillion yen or close to $9 billion pledge of assistance,” he said.
“Prime Minister Abe committed to give flesh to Japan’s special assistance program. I am committed to work closely with him to ensure that projects proceed soonest and it will be done, done, done,” he added.
The aid package to the Philippines over the next five years was initially offered by Japan last January when the Prime Minister visited the country. The areas of assistance include the construction of the first subway in Metro Manila through a proposed 600 billion yen loan, development of the North-South Commuter Railway connecting Clark, Pampanga and Los Baños, Laguna, and projects on energy, information and communications technology, environment, agriculture and disaster reduction.
Another $6 billion worth of business agreements were forged with Japanese investors during the President’s visit to Tokyo.
“I met with industry leaders in Tokyo who signed business agreements valued at six billion dollars. This is more than three times the amount of sealed businesses agreements during my first visit to Japan in 2016,” Duterte said.
He said Japanese government and investors were “in a hurry as we are” in implementing various infrastructure projects and other deals. “They want to finish these projects during my term,” he said.
He said Japan was hoping there would be no trouble in the Korean peninsula to prevent any delays in the bilateral cooperation initiatives. “Because kung magulo ang Korean peninsula [Because if trouble escalates in the Korean peninsula], everything has to be put back to the pigeon hole,” he said.
Duterte said the two countries also agreed during his meeting with Abe to intensify defense and security cooperation to combat terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes. “We will strive to make our waters free and open to our peoples so that they can enjoy our rich natural maritime resources,” he said.
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