By Roy Mabasa
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono had the chance to experience President Rodrigo Duterte’s nocturnal working schedule when he paid the latter a courtesy call in Davao City on Saturday evening, a meeting that lasted up to almost midnight.
According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Assistant Press Secretary Natsuko Sakata, Duterte was “so comfortable speaking so fluently” that the meeting continued for 50 minutes, considerably long for a courtesy call that normally lasts for only about 30 minutes on the average.
“The meeting started at 10:30 p.m. and lasted for 50 minutes. Duterte talked and talked. Our foreign minister is wondering which moment he can interrupt, Mr. Duterte was so comfortable speaking so fluently,” Sakata told a select group of journalists on Monday, minutes before flying back to Japan with Minister Kono.
The Japanese top diplomat arrived in the Philippines on Saturday afternoon via Manila and took a connecting flight to Davao City.
While in Davao on a three-day official visit, Kono met with Duterte and other top government officials to discuss Japan-Philippines bilateral ties, specifically on the future of Mindanao after the successful holding of the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), and cooperation in areas of defense, maritime security, infrastructure development and people-to-people exchanges.
“Mr. Kono couldn’t find the appropriate way of cutting into, anyway. But it was a heartwarming discussion,” Sakata said in describing Kono’s courtesy call with Duterte.
Sakata said they are privileged to suit the busy schedule of Duterte, adding that they were hesitant to “bother your President at midnight.”
In May 2016, shortly before he assumed the presidency, Duterte bared that he intends to report to work as president of the Philippines from 1 p.m. till midnight, “if need be.”
On the second day of his visit, Sakata said Kono was teary-eyed when he was received like a “rock star” by the students of the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku, a Japanese-funded school for Filipinos of Japanese descent.
Also on Sunday night, Kono visited the famous Magsaysay Park where he ate his favorite tropical fruit, durian.
“Normally you use plastic gloves to eat the fruit but in his case, he ate it with his bare hands,” Sakata said.