Japan and the Philippines’ immutable bond
I share the joy of the entire Japanese people as we commemorate today the 62nd birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. This delightful occasion is even more meaningful because we are able to celebrate it with the people of the Philippines.
Supertyphoon “Odette” caused catastrophic damage to the Philippines last December. On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy once again to all of those who have been affected.
Although the world remains clouded by the unprecedented crisis brought about by COVID-19, we have observed a decreasing trend in the number of infections here in the Philippines. In our prolonged fight against the pandemic, Japan has been with the Philippines every step of the way. We will strive to keep strengthening our cooperative relationship and ensure that “no one will be left behind” on our path to recovery.
Despite hardships due to the pandemic, the huge success of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games gave us a great deal of good news. Hidilyn Diaz’s spectacular achievement of winning the Philippines’ first Olympic gold medal immensely inspirited Filipinos and Japanese alike and deserves my warmest congratulations once again.
Uncertainties in the regional security environment emphasize the importance of close cooperation among like-minded countries based on freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Especially, sustaining maritime order in the South China Sea is directly linked to the protection of our global commons. As this can only be achieved through actions based on the principles of the rule of law, the Philippines is one of Japan’s most reliable partners. Japan highly values the Philippines’ efforts to pursue peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Philippines’ renewed commitment to the Arbitral Tribunal’s award issued in 2016 is its eloquent testament. Importantly, Prime Minister Kishida reaffirmed Japan’s support for the Philippines’ position at the Summit Telephone Talk held with President Duterte last November
Francisco Sionil José, a great Filipino writer, sadly held his last breath in January. It would be my honor to quote a passage from one of his literary pieces: “It is the heart which dictates, which rules, which lets us live and die.”
I cannot help thinking about how this passage reflects the essence of Japan-Philippines relations. Our relations developed through mutual thoughtfulness, despite a history deeply upset by war, and have now become extremely amicable, owing to the relentless efforts of both our predecessors. Indeed, the Philippines now refers to Japan as a “friend closer than a brother.” I am deeply grateful for the generosity and kindness of Filipinos. I also think the difficulties posed by the pandemic rather accentuated our bilateral cooperation. Japan successfully fulfilled its 1-trillion yen (roughly P500 billion) commitment for the Philippines’ state building, first announced by then Prime Minister Abe in 2017, within its five-year period. The public and private financing effectively created substantial results in various fields, such as numerous big-ticket infrastructure projects, the facilitation of the Mindanao Peace Process, improvements in health care, and modernization of the Philippine Coast Guard’s maritime law enforcement capacity. I am greatly looking forward to the ongoing Metro Manila Subway and the North-South Commuter Railway projects, which will improve Filipinos’ living standards in the near future.
I am confident that the bond between Japan and the Philippines will remain immutable. While I expect that the Philippines will continue to regard Japan as a reliable partner, it is also our sincere desire to fortify our relations with the Philippines, a country blessed with young and talented people.
I would like to conclude by sincerely wishing for the continued good health of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and His Excellency President Duterte, and for the everlasting friendship between Japan and the Philippines.
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Kazuhiko Koshikawa is Japan’s ambassador to the Philippines.