PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida have signed key agreements on security, defense, maritime cooperation, mining and tourism industries, as the two countries committed to sustaining its vigorous bilateral relationship.
Marcos and Kishida had an Exchange of Notes on the Official Security Assistance (OSA) from Japan to the Government of the Philippines that aims to further enhance the military capacities of the two neighboring countries, which share a common security grant worth 600 million Japanese Yen or around P235.50 million.
The common security grant is intended to help boost the efforts of the defense department by securing coastal radars for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to enhance its maritime domain awareness capability and maritime security.
The two leaders also signed an Exchange of Notes on the Non-Project Grant Aid (NPGA) for the Acquisition of Construction Equipment for Road Network Improvement or Implementation and Disaster Quick Response Operation in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm) worth 957 million Japanese Yen or $6 million.
Marcos said this grant will significantly contribute to the efforts to mitigate the impact of flooding aggravated by climate change in the Bangsamoro region.
Also signed were the memorandum of cooperation on the mining sector between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry of Japan, which is intended to promote sustainable development of the mining and mineral resources sectors of the Philippines and Japan.
To further boost cooperation between the two countries, Marcos and Kishida also signed a memorandum of cooperation in the field of tourism between the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the Republic of the Philippines and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan.
“Excellency, please bring home this message to the Japanese people, that for their support, the Filipino people are grateful. Let us renew our commitment to sustaining the vigor of this relationship in its prime,” Marcos said during a joint press conference in Malacañang on Friday, November 3, 2023.ĺ
Marcos also expressed gratitude to the Japan leader for supporting his administration’s efforts to attain upper middle income country (UMIC) status by 2025 in line with the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.
Japan is helping ifund the Metro Manila Subway Project and the development of the North-South Commuter Railway and its extension, which will secure a reliable, safe, and efficient mass transportation system for the entire country.
“We also articulated our long-held aspiration for the enduring friendship as the leaders of two great maritime nations and Indo-Pacific democracies,” Marcos said.
“Japan has provided us steadfast support and unwavering friendship through many decades. With patient and undistracted focus, we are building our realm of freedom, prosperity, and security together in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
For his part, Kishida vowed to continue supporting the Philippines’ infrastructure developments.
“In the area of economy, I mentioned we will continue with the public-private support for infrastructure development such as the Dalton Pass and the Manila Metro (Subway Project) in line with President Marcos’ Build Better More policy,” he said.
“And also decision was made to provide heavy equipment for disaster management to help peace and economic and social development in the Mindanao region. In addition, we will continue to operate in areas such as smart agriculture, decarbonization and energy transition, and tourism while keeping a close eye on the next month’s ASEAN’s zero emission community (AZEC) Summit,” he added.
Kishida said he is looking forward to working with Marcos to take these bilateral relations to even new heights as he noted that the 67-year-old bilateral relationships between the two governments are now at the “golden age.”
He said Japan will also work with the Philippines in maintaining and strengthening a free and open international order based on the rule of law amid complex crises facing the international community.
“Japan and the Philippines are both maritime nations and strategic partners sharing a fundamental principles and values,” Kishida said.
“And as the international community faces complex crises, we would like to strengthen our cooperation with the Philippines to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law to ensure a world where human dignity is protected. I very much look forward to discussing issues with you in depth today,” he added.
On Saturday, November 4, 2023, Kishida addressed the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines at the Batasang Pambansa.
The upper and lower chamber of the Congress convened to hear the message of Kishida after they adopted House Concurrent Resolution 17 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 15.
Kishida looked back on the long history of bilateral relationship between the Philippines and Japan to which he admitted has not always been smooth sailing.
“We cannot forget the endeavor of our predecessors based on the spirit of tolerance, including the pardon of Japanese war criminals by President [Elpidio] Quirino in 1953, which paved the way for our two countries to overcome difficult times and build the friendly relationship we enjoy today,” he said.
“Today, Japan-Philippines relations have reached the point of being called a 'golden age.' The Philippines, with the second largest population among Asean (Association of Southeast Asian) countries and more than 300,000 citizens living in Japan, is an irreplaceable partner for Japan,” Kishida added.
He recalled the time when Japan aided the Philippines following the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
He said Japanese people from the disaster-stricken area of Tohoku went to the Philippines to assist in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.
“This kind of relationship is what former Prime Minister of Japan Fukuda articulated, a 'heart to heart' relationship,” Kishida said.
“I believe that it is the responsibility of those living in the present, to take the 'heart-to-heart ties' established by our predecessors to new heights and pass them on to the next generation,” he added.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri both expressed confidence that the agreements signed by the Philippines and Japan will be implemented smoothly. (SunStar Philippines)