AT LEAST seven bilateral agreements covering various areas are expected to be signed by the Philippines and Japan during President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. visit there next week.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Neal Imperial said Marcos is set to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and an audience with Emperor Naruhito during his working visit in Japan from February 8 to 12.

He said Marcos’ visit will “maximize the full potential of the Philippines-Japan strategic partnership in all its aspects and facilitate closer defense, security, political, economic and people-to-people ties.”

Japan is the only country to which the Philippines has a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) called the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs considers the President’s visit to Japan as consequential. Japan is the first country with which the Philippines has forged a strategic partnership and is only one of two strategic partners of the Philippines, the other one being Vietnam,” Imperial said.

“The official working visit is expected to reaffirm the strong and vibrant relations between the two countries,” he added.

Japan was the country’s second largest trading partner, the third largest export market and second top source of imports in 2021.

Joining Marcos for his first time to visit Japan since he took the presidency are former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo Jr., and Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, among others.

Earlier, Marcos defended his frequent trips abroad since he took post, noting that he has to introduce himself to other countries to gain more potential investments for the Philippines.

Among the countries that Marcos visited since July were Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, United States, Thailand, Belgium, China and Switzerland where he attended various conferences and met other state leaders.

The most recent trip was in Davos, Switzerland where he attended the World Economic Forum, meeting some of the biggest businessmen in the world. (SunStar Philippines)