By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang has finally confirmed that President Duterte will skip his scheduled trip to Tokyo, Japan next week to focus on the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Duterte is set to deliver a speech at the 23rd Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan on June 5 and 6.
Reports on the cancellatiof the President’s trip to Japan first surfaced on Sunday afternoon.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in a statement Wednesday morning, expressed gratitude to the Japanese government for understanding the situation.
“We thank the Japanese government and organizers for their consideration, and both sides mutually agreed that a visit to Japan could be rescheduled in the future,” Abella said.
According to Abella, the lines of communication between the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and its Japanese counterpart remain open and active in this regard.
He also said that Duterte still hopes to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe whom the President has always admired and respected.
“The Philippines highly values its close friendship and deep bilateral relations with Japan. President Duterte hopes to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe whom he has fond admiration and respect especially when the Japanese leader visited him in his hometown in Davao,” he said.
Abe has visited Duterte’s house in Davao City January this year in a rare diplomatic gesture aimed at strengthening relations between their two nations.
On Tuesday, Nikkei, Inc. reported that Duterte has cancelled his appearance at the conference next week which it is hosting.
On Tuesday evening, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano announced that Duterte will not proceed with his scheduled visit to Japan and that both governments mutually agreed that there will be a better time for the two leaders to meet.
While thanking the Japanese government and the conference organizers for their understanding, Cayetano expressed apologies because of unavoidable circumstances that require the President’s undivided attention.
“We are optimistic that once the security issues in Mindanao will have been settled, and the local rebellion in Mindanao fully addressed, the visit of President Duterte can be rescheduled,” Cayetano noted.
The DFA chief added that this was not an easy decision for the President given the close friendship and deep relations between the Philippines and Japan.
Duterte earlier expressed that his Japan trip would have been his last as he is now exhausted from traveling to other countries.
“But this will be my last. I won’t travel anymore after this. Pagod na talaga ako (I am really tired now),” he added.
Duterte has already traveled to nine countries in the past three months alone.
He has visited Myanmar and Thailand on March; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of Bahrain, and State of Qatar on April; and Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, and Russia this month.
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