By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang expressed confidence that the Philippines and Japan will continue to build their “golden age” of strategic partnership even now that the Land of the Rising Sun ushers in the Reiwa Era.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement as Japanese Emperor Akihito ends his reign, the Heisei era, on April 30. His son Naruhito will begin his reign on May 1.
In his statement, Panelo said Malacañang was saddened by the abdication of the Japanese monarch, but said the Philippines respected his decision to do so.
“The Palace feels melancholic about the abdication of Japanese Emperor Akihito, who is considered a good friend of the Philippines. But he has made a decision and we can only respect it and wish him well with whatever awaits him after he leaves the throne,” he said.
Panelo then expressed confidence that the Philippines and Japan will continue to have good relations even during the Reiwa Era.
“We remain confident that the assumption of Crown Prince Naruhito would augur well for Philippines-Japan relations,” he said.
“Japan’s $9-billion investment and aid package for the Philippines, spread over five years, is the largest amount the Japanese government has committed for a single country,” he added.
“We hope to build the ‘golden age’ for Philippines-Japan strategic partnership during the reign of the new Emperor. As PRRD himself said, Japan is our friend, closer even than a brother,” he continued.
In October last year, Duterte had an audience with Japan’s Royal Family, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, for the first time at the Imperial Palace.
According to Malacañang, Duterte personally extended his appreciation and gratitude for the kindness and compassion of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko when Their Majesties visited the Philippines last year for the 60th anniversary of the normalization of Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations.
In his statement Monday, Panelo said Duterte was humbled by the chance to meet the Japanese royalties.
“As we recall, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was humbled and pleased by the singular honor of meeting His Majesty at the Imperial Palace two years ago where he personally extended his gratitude for the kindness and compassion of the Emperor, who together with his wife, Empress Michiko, visited the Philippines in 2016 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the normalization of Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations,” he said.
Duterte was supposed to pay a courtesy call on Emperor Akihito during his first visit to Japan in October 2016.
However, the meeting was canceled following the death of the Emperor’s uncle, Prince Mikasa at the age of 100.
There was another attempt for the President to meet the Japanese imperial couple last June but it did not push through because of the Marawi siege.
Before he flew to Japan in October 2017, Duterte acknowledged that he would have to keep his words in check during his first meeting with Japan’s current Emperor. But he made sure that he will be sure to express how grateful the Philippines is to the Asian superpower.
“I suppose that I have to limit my mouth there, except maybe to bring the warm greetings of the Filipino nation, a grateful nation to Japan, as a matter of fact,” Duterte had said.
The President had also said that he will personally convey gratitude to the Japanese royal family “for Japan’s friendship with the Philippines, which has grown stronger under His Majesty’s reign.”
“Our ties and friendship with Japan is most valued, and as we recognize our meaningful shared history, we will continue to be forward-looking in our relations,” he added.
Duterte noted that his visit to Emperor Akihito was “kind of a homage” before the Emperor abdicates, or renounces his throne.
“One of the reason was really that before he steps down, he wanted to see the leaders of—the last time, I was not able to do it because his uncle died. And that is why I have to go back,” he said.