A JAPANESE Embassy official said Japan is eyeing to strengthen business and cultural relations in Davao City and bring more Dabawenyos to work for and visit their country.

Koshikawa Kazuhiko, Japanese ambassador designate to the Philippines, said in an interview with SunStar Davao, that through “people-to-people exchange,” which involves bringing and sending tourists and business opportunities for both Japan and the Philippines, is one of the pillars of both countries’ bilateral relations.

“[We aim in] promoting business relations, promoting more investments here in Davao and Mindanao. Now, the peace process in Mindanao has been going on for three years... The dialogue has been continuous, no more government versus MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front], which we really admire,” Kazuhiko said.

“Also through this [people-to-people exchange] I think we can deepen our bilateral relations and also promote trust between Japanese and the Philippines,” Kazuhiko added.

Kazuhiko also said Japanese and Dabawenyos’ interpersonal communications can be traced back 120 years ago, with around 20 Japanese people registered as citizens in the Philippines at that time.

“Cultural exchange is very important between Japan and the Philippines, especially in the Mindanao area. With Japanese immigrating here in Davao around 120 years ago, the first Japanese came here, they established partnerships with Dabawenyos and they were engaging in the abaca industry,” he said.

“We need more human resources from other countries because of our aging societies, [we are advocating for] more people-to-people exchange, and we are open to welcome more Philippine tourists, especially here in Mindanao, here in Davao,” he added.

Before the pandemic, Kazuhiko said that around 600,000 Filipino tourists visit Japan while 680,000 Japanese visit the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Kazuhiko added they are also eyeing to promote their traditional culture to Japanese schools here in the Philippines.

He also said that they are always ready to help Mindanao infrastructure projects through Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), a governmental agency in which he had been a senior vice-president for four years.

“That's why we have been supporting Mindanao through Jica for more than 20 years, promoting industries and commissioning [projects] in many ways,” Kazuhiko said.

Notably, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) collaborated with JICA for the Davao City Bypass Construction Project (DCBCP), aiming to improve transport logistics and alleviate vehicular traffic congestion in Davao City.