President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide have reaffirmed their shared commitment to strengthen Philippines-Japan Strategic Partnership across various areas of cooperation as the two countries are set to mark 65 years of diplomatic ties.
In a statement from the Office of the President, Duterte personally congratulated Suga on his appointment and reiterated his invitation for the latter to visit the Philippines “as soon as circumstances allow” in a 25-minute telephone conversation on December 15, 2020.
“Japan is a valued partner of the Philippines. As a friend closer than a brother, ours is an exemplary partnership that has withstood the test of time,” Duterte was quoted as saying.
Duterte thanked Japan for its consistent support for the peace and development agenda in Mindanao and the administration’s Build, Build, Build program.
“The 36-kilometer Metro Manila Subway will commence partial operations by 2022. The first of its kind in the Philippines, it will be an important crowning achievement of our cooperation during my term,” he said.
He also expressed appreciation for Japan’s USD3.16 million emergency assistance, two substantial loans for the Philippines’ pandemic recovery efforts, and for facilitating the repatriation of 3,852 Filipinos from Japan during the pandemic.
“Until Covid-19, the Philippines was consistently among the fastest-growing economies in the region. Our fundamentals remain robust. The support of Japan raises our optimism and confidence in containing the pandemic and steering our economy back onto its growth trajectory,” Duterte said.
Duterte likewise noted the growing maritime security and defense cooperation between the Philippines and Japan, as he exchanged views with Suga on regional issues, including the South China Sea and the situation in the Korean Peninsula.
He conveyed gratitude to Suga for the expression solidarity with the Filipino people, especially those affected by recent calamities.
Suga, for his part, conveyed Japan’s interest to work closely with the Philippines to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
He also reiterated Japan’s support for the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” program and the Mindanao peace process.
Suga expressed hope that the establishment of the Consulate General of Japan in Cebu in January 2021 will further strengthen Philippines-Japan bilateral relations.
Suga was elected as the country’s new prime minister last September.
He is a close confidante of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe. His term in office will continue until Japan’s general elections in September 2021. (Azer Parrocha, PNA)