By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
TOKYO, Japan – The Philippines and Japan are now entering a “golden age of strategic partnership” after the world super power pledged to extend “maximum support” for the rehabilitation of the war-torn city of Marawi City.
This was disclosed by Duterte after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Kantei, or the Prime Minister’s office here, Monday evening.
The President said in a joint press conference with Abe that the Japanese leader had a full understanding of the challenges the Philippines faced while Marawi City was under siege by the Daesh-inspired terrorists.
“(Abe) conveyed ready support for our efforts to address the problem of terrorism and violent extremism. And, he offered timely assistance for the affected communities and residents,” Duterte said.
The President said it was only right that he travelled to Japan for his first official visit after addressing the threat of terrorism in Marawi City. He also thanked Japan for its continuing efforts in bringing peace in Mindanao.
“It is, therefore, fitting and proper, that after the liberation of Marawi City from the grip of Maute terrorists, my first official visit overseas takes place in Japan – a true friend which has stood squarely behind the Philippines in my country’s onward advance [to] greater peace, progress and prosperity,” Duterte said.
“I thanked Japan for its full support for our efforts to bring just and lasting peace in Mindanao. Apart from its involvement in the peace process, Japan is already on the ground as we proceed with reconstructing Marawi and rebuilding the lives of those affected,” he added.
“Our commitment and resolve show the desire to further expand cooperative ties. I dare say that, considering what we have accomplished and achieved, the Philippines and Japan are building a golden age [for] our Strategic Partnership,” he continued.
According to Duterte, the commitment between the two allied countries, founded on democratic values, will stand the test of time.
“Working together, we should have much to show and to be proud of in the years to come,” he added.
Japan has long been providing assistance for peace and development in Mindanao. Since 2006, Japan has been providing concentrated assistance for community development, human resource development, institutional building and sustainable economic development under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD).
In his statement, Abe recognized the importance the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City for his “dear and cherished friend” President Duterte, and for the affected Marawi citizens, and vowed to extend his government’s utmost support.
“We will provide maximum support for the restoration and reconstruction of Marawi City and we will strengthen support for Mindanao and toward the establishment of an autonomous government, we will respond to the progress of processing,” he said.
Abe also commended Duterte on how he was able to handle the threat of the Islamic State (IS) in Mindanao and vowed to support his objective to establish stability and development of the island.
“I’d like to express my heartfelt respect for the leadership exerted by His Excellency President Duterte going forward in his efforts to fight terrorism and also for the stability in Mindanao and the development; and in his attempts to ensure this, we would like to provide full support to President Duterte’s approaches,” he said.
In a briefer of Abe’s statement provided to members of the Japanese and Philippine media, Japan is set to send equipment for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Marawi City and its surrounding areas.
Japan is also considering to provide further assistance including possible support for road construction and improvement once the Philippine government’s post-conflict needs assessment on the war-torn city is completed.
Before the Joint Press Statement of the two leaders, the Exchange of Notes on Yen Loan for the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Management Project was signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono.
In his statement, Abe said the Japanese government will speedily promote the building of the Metro Manila Subway Project, improve projects for the North South Commuter Rail, and enhance disaster reduction-oriented quality infrastructure cooperation.
Abe said the Philippine and Japan will further promote bilateral cooperation in the areas of energy, employment creation, information and communications technology, environment, agriculture and disaster reduction.
“I would like to work hand-in0hand with my close friend President Duterte to further deepen the bonds of friendship between our two countries and we’ll cooperate towards peace and prosperity of the region and international community,” he said.
Duterte, on the other hand, thanked Abe for the warm reception and excellent arrangements accorded to him during his second visit to Japan.
The President also said that, as strategic partners, cooperation between the Philippines and Japan was now expansive and multi-dimensional.
“Our discussion today were very warm, open and comprehensive. Both sides recognized today that there is still ample room for even more significant growth in all areas of mutual concern,” Duterte said.
Japan’s Y1-T assistance
Duterte also thanked Japan for its commitment to extended government assistance to the Philippines worth 1 trillion yen, or roughly P430 billion, for the next five years.
“I am pleased with Japan’s reiteration that it is fully committed to the 1 trillion yen pledge [of] assistance to the Philippines,” he said.
“This covers huge impact and high value infrastructure projects that my country needs to sustain and spur our economic growth. There will be some of the most ambitious and groundbreaking projects, including the Metro Manila Subway project, and major developments in the regions and provinces,” he added.
Support for Duterte
Abe also expressed support for Duterte, being the chairman of this year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“This year, President Duterte is serving as Chair of the ASEAN which is celebrating his 50th Anniversary. We will provide full support to ASEAN’s attempts to strengthen unity and centrality and its attempts to develop as a free and open community,” he said.
“Two weeks from now, there will be a series of summit meetings of the ASEAN. And so that these meetings will be a success, we will provide our maximum support to President Duterte who will be serving as Chair,” he added. (Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)
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