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Brew Point

More than brothers

/ 12:11 AM January 16, 2017

In a moment of eloquence during his Tokyo visit, President Duterte told his counterpart that Filipinos and Japanese were “more than brothers.” That was a powerful thing to say and Shinzo Abe was clearly moved.

True, our two nations were once at war. Since then, however, Japan proved to be a staunch ally and true friend. The country expressed its regret for the brutality and destruction that happened by offering reparations. The road that begins in Tuguegarao and ends in Davao was financed through the reparations program. This is why it is called the Philippines-Japan Friendship Highway.

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Tokyo has been our second biggest source of development assistance after the World Bank. Japan would actually overtake the World Bank if we take into account the P434 billion in grants committed by Prime Minister Abe during his visit to Manila and Davao. That is a generous package indeed. It will help us close the infrastructure gap that plagues our economic performance. It matches the grant package offered by
China after the President’s visit to Beijing.

It is also worth noting that Japan is the only country with which we have a free trade agreement. The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement was negotiated and ratified during the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Her trade secretary, Peter Favila, was awarded the highest honors by the Japanese government for his work to see this partnership through. That agreement provides a mutually beneficial framework for more comprehensive economic cooperation between our two countries.

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Over the next few years, with the reaffirmation of our economic partnership and the enthusiasm of both our leaders, we are likely to see the blossoming of our economic ties. This is a fortuitous time. Japan’s population is rapidly aging while we have a demographic “sweet spot” in the form of millions of young Filipinos moving into working age. The complementation between our two economies is plain to see.

Japan and the Philippines are both archipelagic countries. Tokyo understands our defense needs more than any country. This is the reason the Japanese government volunteered to supply us with fast naval patrol craft to help us secure our maritime resources and defend against piracy in our seas. Those naval assets are now being delivered.

Tokyo has been helping us through the Japan International Cooperation Agency by funding studies into our transport and flooding problems. These studies, including engineering designs, have been very helpful for us. Today, Japan is offering its cutting edge rail technology to help us rebuild our long neglected rail transport. The help being extended to us is precious.

Closer than brothers indeed we are. Prime Minister Abe is the first foreign leader to visit Manila during the Duterte presidency. Early on, Abe expressed admiration for our country’s new leader. When he came a-visiting, he asked to have breakfast at the Duterte home in Davao. This is a first in diplomacy. No foreign leader on a state visit ever asked to be hosted in the private residence of his host.

The fare was simple. But the significance of this breakfast is immense. It underscores not only the close personal relationship that has evolved between our two leaders. It is a foretaste of the intimacy that will characterize top-level diplomacy between us. This opens an entirely new dimension to summitry.

It is easy to profess friendship or alliance from the rostrum, reading text prepared by career diplomats. Coming to a friend’s humble home to share local delicacies adds a great dose of authenticity to our relationship.

Tokyo would not have dared ask for its leader to be hosted for breakfast at the Philippine leader’s home if that leader were not Rodrigo Duterte. The diplomats in Tokyo understood our President’s preference for informality. They were sure he would graciously accept the proposal for the Japanese premier to eat at the Duterte residence. New ground has thus been broken.

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TAGS: Brew Point, Inquirer column, Inquirer columnist, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, Japan-Philippines relations, Martin Andanar, Philippines-Japan Friendship Highway, Rodrigo Duterte, shinzo abe
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