I extend my sincere congratulations to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on his inauguration as the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines. It is a great honor for me to attend the presidential inauguration ceremony as the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Japan, Kishida Fumio.
Last year, Japan and the Philippines celebrated the 65th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations. Once fought in World War II, our two countries have walked together as forward-looking nations in the post-war era and have always maintained a relationship of trust. During this period, bilateral cooperation has progressed on several fronts and has become indispensable for our two peoples. Moreover, as neighboring maritime nations sharing sea lanes, our two countries have worked together in recent years to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific” based on the rule of law to ensure peace and prosperity. of the region. I would like to discuss recent major developments in bilateral relations in three areas.
First, in terms of economic development cooperation, Japan continues to be the Philippines’ largest export destination as well as its largest bilateral donor, covering 40% of the Philippines’ ODA portfolio. In particular, Japan’s contribution of one trillion yen (about 476 billion pesos) over five years, promised in January 2017, was made ahead of schedule; allow me to emphasize that Japan keeps its promises. For example, Japan has provided financial assistance for infrastructure development projects including Metro Manila, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and Davao City Bypass, contributing to improved livelihoods. of the Filipino nation. Japan also contributes to a safe and peaceful life in the Philippines through police support and disaster risk reduction measures. I would like to amplify these efforts in coordination with the administration of President Marcos to contribute to the socio-economic development of the Philippines.
Second, when it comes to people-to-people exchanges, with over 270,000 residents in Japan, Filipinos represent the fourth largest group of internationals in Japan. The number of Filipino visitors to Japan has increased sevenfold in the seven years to 2019. Entry of tourists to Japan, which was halted due to COVID-19, is again permitted for participants of tours of group organized since this month. I hope many more Filipinos will visit Japan.
Filipinos in Japan are actively engaged in a wide range of sectors. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in Japan support the Japanese economy and the lives of Japanese people in various fields such as nursing, agriculture, and manufacturing. Additionally, the Philippines is one of the most popular study abroad destinations for Japanese students, while Filipino teachers also support the teaching of English in Japan, both in the classroom and in line. Additionally, Mitakeumi, who was born in the Philippines and raised with the sinigang, rose to second place in the Japanese national martial art of sumo wrestling. Such levels of interaction attest to the progress made by our two countries in terms of people-to-people and cultural exchanges. I hope that people-to-people exchanges will serve as the basis for the post-COVID economic recovery which will be further advanced under President Marcos.
Third, we must continue to work on bilateral security cooperation. In light of the increasingly difficult regional security environment, Japan and the Philippines launched the Foreign and Defense Ministerial (“2+2”) meeting in April, with four ministers agreeing on strengthening security cooperation. Our two countries are strategic partners sharing common values and interests, such as the rule of law and democracy. I sincerely hope to see bilateral security cooperation – with a history of defense equipment transfers, defense exchanges and joint exercises – progress under the leadership of President Marcos. Japan will also continue to contribute to the security and stability of our surrounding waters through our Philippine Coast Guard capacity building projects, including the development of patrol vessels.
Japan and the Philippines have worked hand in hand to overcome many difficulties. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, a Filipino medical assistance team came to the rescue. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has made available three million doses of vaccines and 120 billion yen (57 billion pesos) in financial support to the Philippines. Japan also provided $13 million in emergency relief and humanitarian aid to areas affected by Typhoon Odette. “A friend in need is truly a friend” – this old adage so accurately describes the relationship between our two countries.
During President Marcos’ presidency, Japan and the Philippines will mark the 70th anniversary of diplomatic normalization and the 15th anniversary of strategic partnership. I would like to take this opportunity to express my determination to coordinate closely with the new administration led by President Marcos to bring the decades-old spirit of mutual cooperation of our ancestors to a new level.
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Hayashi Yoshimasa is Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.