President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Toast during the dinner reception for the State Visit to the Philippines of His Majesty the Emperor Akihito of Japan
Rizal Hall, Malacanan Palace
27 January 2016
It is a great honor for our people to host Your Majesties on your return to the Philippines. This visit comes at an auspicious time, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of our relations, and your presence today indeed emphasizes the depth of the friendship between our two nations.

Many years ago in, 1962, Your Majesties first visited our shores. As you narrated to me: You then had a sense of apprehension as to how my countrymen would welcome you, in light of the pains of the past. However, you saw that your anxieties were unfounded, given the way in which President Diosdado Macapagal and the rest of the Filipino people received you. Just as Your Majesties were imparted with so many good memories all those years ago, it is our hope that you will depart with even better memories after rediscovering the affection and hospitality of the Filipino people.

This is the fourth time I that have met Your Majesties, the first being when I accompanied my mother on her visit to Japan in 1986, and the others were during my visits to Japan as President. In all my encounters with Your Majesties, I have always admired the simplicity, sincerity, and grace you demonstrate. One cannot help but marvel at how you have upheld your duties and obligations, and have undertaken tremendous sacrifices, which all form part of a lifetime commitment of restoring and enhancing relations.

I can only imagine the difficulties that you carry as the symbols of your nation and as individuals of good will. As the leader of my people, I accepted their mandate knowing full well that the sacrifices that I would have to make would be limited to my time in office. In meeting Your Majesties, I am held in awe, recognizing the burdens you have borne, as you have had to live with the weight of the decisions made by others during the dark episodes in the history of our nations.

It is, however, upon this history that we have built a far more enduring relationship. Japan has been a consistent, able, and trustworthy partner, who has helped advance our people’s progress. Allow me to cite some examples: Japan was our top trading partner in 2014, and was our largest source of active Official Development Assistance as well as our top source of Investment Promotion Agency-approved foreign investments for that year. Japan has likewise been a vital partner in our peace process and the development of Mindanao, as well as in the enhancement of our maritime and disaster management capabilities. You have also been a staunch ally in advancing the rule of law in our region. For all this, and many more, I, on behalf of my countrymen, say: Domo arigato gozaimasu.

Your Majesties, your visit becomes all the more meaningful, when we consider that you have chosen to come to our country at this point in your lives. While travelling to our shores in the 1960s might have taken longer, Your Majesties may have found it less taxing back then. Tonight, I speak for everyone present when I say that we are deeply honored by Your Majesties’ presence as “respected symbols achieving ‘peace everywhere’ you go.”

On this note, allow me to propose a toast:

May Their Majesties continue to be blessed with great happiness and good health;

May the solidarity between our two peoples redound to a shared prosperity for generations to come; and

May the strategic partnership of our two nations serve as a firm cornerstone for peace, stability, and progress in our part of the world.