Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and friend of the Philippines; reviving the ‘Trillion Trees Program’ – Manila Bulletin



Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

We were at the Manila Polo Club with our son Joey, our brother Roberto and our old family friend Seiichi Wada, a successful Japanese business leader, when we heard about the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. .

Seiichi Wada, like former Prime Minister Abe, is a friend of the Philippines, having helped to strengthen the economic relations between our two countries and continues to do so until now.

Wada is an advisor to the Philippines-Russia Business Council, whose president is our youngest brother, Roberto. He is also a good friend and business associate of our late brother Oscar, who served as Honorary Consul General of Ukraine to the Philippines.

Wada is a board member of CAPDI, Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International, an Asia Pacific-wide organization that brings together political parties and civil society organizations under one roof in a common political house. .

Coming back to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, we join the people of Japan and leaders around the world in mourning his passing.

He served as his country’s prime minister for nine years, from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020, the longest term in Japanese history. He was also the youngest to be elected Japanese Prime Minister in 2006.

As Speaker of the House of Representatives at the time, we had the privilege of talking with Prime Minister Abe about deepening the Philippines-Japan bilateral relationship as well as cooperation on the challenges facing the region. Asia and the international community during our meetings in Tokyo and his visit to the Philippines in December 2006.

Much earlier, we also met his late father, the influential Japanese politician and post-war foreign minister, Shintaro Abe, who became our friend.

Shinzo Abe’s maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, also served as Prime Minister of Japan from 1957 to 1960.

Shinzo Abe has also served as Chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is a member of our International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), a Philippine-led initiative founded and launched in Manila in September 2000 and which today represents some 350 leaders and opposition parties from 52 Asian countries.

The House of Representatives, under our leadership, conferred the Congressional Medal on former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for enriching the relationship between the Philippines and Japan.

We are pleased to note that when we were Speaker of the House, we launched and instituted the Congressional Medal in November 2002 to “honor political, economic and cultural leaders who have distinguished themselves by their life, work and vision” .

Congressional Medal recipients include Presidents Nelson Mandela of South Africa, George W. Bush of the United States, Hu Jintao of China, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, APJ Abdul Kalam of India; prime ministers Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, Wilfred Martens of Belgium, Kjell Magne Bondevik of Norway; and Senate President Pier Ferdinando Casini of Italy.


Let us not deny the other threats of nature which have beset our country and the world for many years now and for which we have been warned.

One of them is environmental degradation which, unfortunately, most of us take for granted, if not completely ignored. Environmental experts have repeatedly warned that this clear and present danger will explode in the near future.

This global threat has become increasingly serious since the World Economic Forum launched a program in January 2020 to “grow, restore and conserve one trillion trees around the world and with the aim of restoring biodiversity and helping to combat climate change”.

At the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November 2021, 110 world leaders pledged to end and reverse deforestation by 2030.

The countries that signed the agreement would cover about 85 percent of the world’s forests.
The United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and several other donor countries have committed $12 billion in public funds and $7.2 billion in private funds to protect and restore the forests around the world.
From our early years as Speaker of the House, as founding President of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), as well as in the various international organizations that we are privileged to serve.

We are convinced that reforestation and arboriculture, at the scale and intensity that the planet needs, can and must become important job-creating economic stimulus for developing countries, if not for all countries. , that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), regional banks, parliaments, political parties and civil society must be champions.

Mass planting of trees can become a virtuous, even eternal cycle of planting, cultivation, harvesting, timber processing and replanting that can generate tens of millions of jobs worldwide for young men and poor young women from emerging countries, in addition to addressing food shortages and the expansion of mountain agriculture, and above all, the most significant contribution to the fight against climate change and environmental degradation.

We proposed much earlier that these programs could be organized through what might be called “Billion Tree Foundations” managed by civil society groups, and strongly supported by governments, parliaments and political parties, or perhaps, better still, undertaken by governments. themselves, actively supported or even managed by the private sector.




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