By Genalyn Kabiling and Roy Mabasa
Japan has offered a one-trillion-yen (approximately P433-billion) aid package for the Philippines in the next five years to promote economic and infrastructure development.
Prime minister Shinzo Abe announced the large financial aid package after holding summit talks with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on intensifying cooperation on trade and investments, maritime security and law enforcement.
In a press briefing held at the New Executive Building in Malacañang, Japanese foreign press secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura said the funds will come from Japan’s Official Development Assistance as well as from Japanese private investments.
While Japan has yet to decide on the ratio of how the funds will be divided, “the bottom line of this announcement is that Japan is very eager to promote cooperation for the business and the economic development of the Philippines by utilizing all those available resources,” Kawamura pointed out.
Kawamura also stressed that this undertaking for the effective and comprehensive development of the Philippine economy is a “two-way street,” noting the necessity for the Philippines to have a business- and investment-friendly environment.
“We would very much appreciate if the Philippine government officials and the private sector understand this point and cooperate with us.”
Already, both parties have agreed to establish the joint committee on the economic cooperation and infrastructure development.
According to Kawamura, the top representative of Japan has already been named and it is expected that the Philippines will soon appoint its own.
Abe arrived in Manila on Thursday, January 12 for a two-day official visit that includes a stopover in Davao City on Friday.
He is the first head of state to visit the Philippines since Duterte assumed office last June. His visit comes amid Manila’s efforts to enhance ties with China and lessen reliance on United States, a traditional ally of Japan and the Philippines.
“For the further development of the Philippines, we will create business opportunities through ODA [official development assistance] and private sector investments which together will be of the order of 1 trillion yen over the next five years,” Abe said in his remarks.
A committee from both countries will be established to promote economic cooperation and implement infrastructure investments in the Philippines, according to Abe.
He said Japan is ready to provide technology and know-how “to the fullest extent” for the improvement of infrastructure in Metro Manila and the rest of the Philippines.
Japan is also committed to continue to provide support for peace and development in Mindanao, Abe said.
Abe also assured that Japan is willing to assist the Duterte government in carrying out drug rehabilitation efforts.
“On countering illegal drugs, we want to work together with the Philippines through relevant measures of support,” Abe said, adding he will encourage Japanese private sector to assist in the improvement of drug treatment facilities, formulation of treatment programs and other areas,” he said.
Abe said Japan will also enhance support for the Philippines’ capacity-building in the field of maritime security, highlighting the countries’ nature as maritime nations.
Abe also welcomed the signing of exchange of notes on the provision of high-speed patrol boats as part of security and counter-terrorism measures. “We will strengthen cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism in order to realize a society where it is possible for youths to entertain hopes.”
The Japanese prime minister brushed aside worries about the improving ties between the Philippines and China.
“I welcome the fact that President Duterte is working to improve China-Philippine relations in light of the arbitral award,” Abe said, referring to the arbitration court decision that nullified China’s claims in the South China Sea.
But Abe affirmed the importance of the rule of law, peaceful resolution of disputes and non-militarization in addressing the dispute. “The issue of the South China Sea is linked directly to regional peace and stability and is a concern to the entire international community.”
Upon arrival in Manila, Abe went straight to Malacañang where he was given a red carpet welcome. He is scheduled to visit Davao City on Friday during which he and his wife will drop by the president’s home.
Abe said it was a “tremendous honor” to become the first world leader to visit President Duterte at the start of his term.
“I chose the Philippines as my first destination this year and that is testament to my primary emphasis on our bilateral relationship,” he said at the start of the talks with Duterte.
“I’m committed to elevating our bilateral relationship to a higher ground.”
After the summit talks, the president hosted a state banquet for Abe and his delegation at the Palace.
“Together with the president, I look forward to further enhancing friendly ties between our two nations and to cooperate towards regional stability and prosperity,” he said.