By Genalyn Kabiling and Associated Press
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe flew to Australia after a two-day visit to the Philippines, during which he pledged billions of pesos worth of business opportunities and private investments along with speedboats and other counterterrorism equipment.
He left for Sydney from Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, and is expected to arrive Friday evening, January 13. After Australia, Abe will visit Vietnam and Indonesia next.
The visiting prime minister got a taste of “durian” diplomacy and hospitality when he visited Duterte’s home in Davao.
The president pulled out all the stops to welcome Abe in a friendly and casual setting, from hosting a power breakfast at his residence to a durian feast in the city.
Abe’s journey to Davao City came a day after offering a one-trillion-yen (approx. P433-billion) aid package for economic and infrastructure investments in the next five years.
The two leaders have agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation on trade and investments, maritime security, drug rehabilitation efforts, among others, during their meeting in Malacañang last Thursday.
First on Abe’s itinerary in Davao City was a private visit to the president’s modest residence alongside his wife Akie.
Duterte and Abe, both donning polo shirts, bonded over Filipino breakfast and exchange gifts during the house visit. Abe also bore witness to Duterte’s simple lifestyle after being shown his old bedroom.
“Japan prime minister Shinzo Abe inside the simple home of President Duterte. We also showed him how the president enjoys the comfort of his own bed, including his old and favorite mosquito net,” Duterte’s special assistant Christopher Go said in a Facebook post, sharing photos of Abe’s visit to the president’s house.
Apart from monggo soup, Go said the two leaders ate local delicacies such as biko, suman, kutsinta and puto, and fresh fruits for breakfast.
Malacañang photos showed the First Couple presenting gifts to the visiting Japanese premier and his wife. Abe’s wife looked delighted when she received a blouse from the Duterte and his partner Honeylet.
Abe’s visit to Duterte’s home lasted for 45 minutes, according to Go. The prime minister is the first head of state entertained by the President in his Davao residence.
The two leaders then traveled to the Water Insular Hotel to meet and greet Filipino and Japanese businessmen. They granted photo sessions with the group without delivering any public speeches.
The two leaders proceeded to attend a ceremonial adoption of a rescued Philippine eagle by Japan at the same hotel. The juvenile female eagle was named “Sakura,” cherry blossoms in Japanese, in honor of the visiting prime minister.
Duterte turned over tokens, including an eagle stuffed toy and a frame photo of Sakura, to the visiting prime minister during the ceremony.
The Philippine leader then invited Abe to savor durian, marang, mangosteen, pineapple, and other fresh fruits before having lunch at the same hotel.
A live feed from state-owned People’s Television showed Abe partaking spoonfuls of durian and other fruits alongside Duterte. Abe seemed to enjoy the local fruits and even asked him wife to join the fruit buffet.
The luncheon included 61 kilograms of class A tuna sashimi, soup, pomelo and fern salad, glazed tuna belly, and durian pannacota, biko turon and civet coffee jello for dessert.
After having buffet lunch, the Prime Minister visited the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku, an international college established by the Japanese. He was welcomed by students waving Japanese and Philippine flags and singing “It’s a Small World” in Japanese.
It was Abe’s last public engagement before departing Davao City.
President Duterte has nothing but warm praises for Japan during a state banquet hosted for Abe and his delegation. Duterte said he considers Japan “a friend closer than a brother” as he promised to further strengthen the country’s strategic partnership with the long-time ally.
“In Tokyo, I said that Japan deserves its own rightful place in the constellation of the Philippines’ friends,” he said about the country’s largest source of development aid. “Tonight, let me reiterate that Japan is a friend closer than a brother. That means that Japan is a friend unlike any other.”