Aquino off to Japan after US visit-A A +A
By Jill Beltran
Friday, September 23, 2011
FOLLOWING a five-day official working trip in the United States, President Benigno Aquino III is set to undertake another working visit to Japan from September 25 to 28.
In a press briefing in Malacanang on Friday, Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Maria Theresa Lazaro said Aquino's visit to Japan is upon invitation of newly assumed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
The President is the second head-of-state invited by Noda to visit their country. Noda replaced Naoto Kan, who resigned last August after the latter's approval rating plunged over his administration's handling of the tsunami disaster and nuclear crisis.
"Both governments have long looked forward to this visit. Japan had indicated its desire to realize this visit by President Aquino as early as the President’s first full day in office on July 1st 2010 when its special envoy, Ambassador Osamu Fujimura -- now the Chief Cabinet Secretary under the Noda government -- conveyed this message," said Lazaro.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official noted that Aquino's visit aims to further strengthen the ties cultivated by both countries over the last 55 years.
She stressed that Japan, the world's third-largest economy, remains as the Philippines’ leading source of official development assistance (ODA) and one of top trading partners and sources of foreign direct investments and tourists.
"The emerging strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan by which both countries will intensify economic cooperation from mutual prosperity and political cooperation to address bilateral and especially global and regional issues of global import," she added.
The President will start his official visit by meeting the Filipino community in Tokyo shortly after his arrival on September 25.
Aquino and his delegation will attend a "community gathering" at 11 a.m. (Manila time) of Sunday, September 25, at the Japan Education Center in Tokyo, the Philippine embassy in Tokyo said on Friday.
Activities during the event will include a mass, a cultural presentation, and a performance by actor-singer Piolo Pascual.
The meeting with Aquino is set at 4 p.m. although the center will open its doors at noon.
On September 27, the President will have an evening summit meeting with Noda, to discuss the advancement of bilateral relations and exchange views on several regional issues.
Regional issues such as maritime security, climate change, the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), Asean, and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation to be held in November are among the issues that are expected to be discussed, Lazaro said.
The DFA official said the issue on the West Philippine Sea will also be tackled.
"The Japanese ambassador in his previous interview said that there will be an exchange of views especially since the President has just visited China on his very successful state visit," she said.
While Chinese government earlier said it prefers a bilateral discussion with countries regarding the Spratlys territorial dispute, Lazaro believed that discussion with Japan will not irritate China.
China, the world's fastest growing economy, recently overtook Japan as the second-largest economy.
"I would not think so because, as I said, this is in the context of maritime security. Therefore, this exchange of views will be merely a reflection of what has been discussed by the President during his recent visit," Lazaro said.
Both China and the Philippines agreed to discuss the territorial disputes peacefully.
The meeting between Aquino and Noda will be followed by an official dinner to be hosted by the Prime Minister.
Aquino and Noda are expected to issue a joint statement affirming the two countries’ shared values and their commitment to nurturing mutually beneficial cooperation.
Both leaders are also expected to discuss Japan’s development assistance for the Philippines. They will also witness an exchange of notes on a 9.2-billion yen loan package on the project on forest lands management, which will benefit the Philippine river basins and upland regions.
Lazaro said the President is also expected to thank Japan for its support in the Mindanao peace process and for its assistance to grassroots projects in conflict-affected areas.
On 28 September, the President will pay a state call on His Majesty Emperor Akihito who will be hosting a court luncheon in honor of Aquino.
"The President’s official meetings will touch on a wide range of issues. On the political front, the meetings will touch on sustaining the two countries’ tradition of reciprocal high-level visits and policy dialogues as well as cooperation on international and regional fora such as the UN and Asean and other issues of mutual interest," said Lazaro.
Apart from the official meetings, the President will also be engaging business meetings with the key Japanese business organizations such as the Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, the Japan-Tokyo Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Japan Philippine Economic Cooperation Committee.
The President will also witness the signing of memorandum of understandings on new investment projects.
Lazaro said the President will also highlight the country’s strong economic performance and encourage continued Japanese investments in the Philippines, including through Japanese participation in infrastructure developments under the public-private partnership scheme.
As a gesture of continuing solidarity with Japan, the President will also visit Miyagi Prefecture, particularly the city of Ishinomaki, one of the localities most severely hit by the disastrous tsunami last March 11.
Lazaro said the government is currently finalizing what assistance it will provide to the tsunami-stricken city.
"No less than the President, in addressing the Araw ng Kagitingan rites last 9 April, cited Japan as one of the Philippines’ only two great allies. The President’s official working visit will be an important step towards cementing our strategic relations with this close neighbor and a valued partner," she said. (AMN/CVB/Sunnex)