Tokyo, Japan — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aims to further boost the country’s relations with Japan when he pays a visit to Tokyo, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V said.
In an interview prior to the President’s arrival here, Laurel said the meeting between President Duterte and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is crucial to discuss matters of mutual interest.
“Today, Japan is providing almost all aspect of what the government, the Philippine government, needs from soup to nuts literally. And it’s the only country that has provided not only the financial, the diplomatic, the economic necessities of our country,” Laurel said.
Among the issues of mutual concern include political, economic, socio-cultural, people-to-people exchanges, industrial, and regional stability.
Laurel said the visit is also an avenue for the President to personally extend his congratulations to Prime Minister Abe, who recently won a landslide victory in a snap election he called in late September, making him the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan since post-war.
“I thank the Japanese government, specifically Prime Minister Abe, and congratulatory that Prime Minister Abe has been successfully, his party has been successfully reelected,” the envoy said.
Laurel noted that Prime Minister Abe’s victory is advantageous to the Philippines in moving ahead toward further deepening cooperation and relationships between Manila and Tokyo.
“It’s obvious that Prime Minister Abe is an advantage to us. You don’t have to get to know another leader who has already been enamored with the Filipino, and more convinced that under the leadership of Duterte there is a sincere effort to move the country upward for the betterment of our relations,” he said.
Duterte will be the first head of state to be invited by Prime Minister Abe since he was reelected. The two leaders will also be hosting US President Donald Trump when the latter makes his first presidential tour in Asia in November.
This is Duterte’s third meeting with the Japanese premier since he was elected President. The two first met when Duterte had an official meeting in Japan in October last year. Abe then reciprocated the visit when he flew to the Philippines in January, which brought him not only to country’s capital Manila but also to the President’s home province Davao City.
“The Japanese are introverted in their ways. They do not open themselves up easily to even the public, much less the foreigners. So it is a great impression to a Japanese that somebody from the province opens up his house to a foreigner. And that’s quite impressive to them,” Laurel said recalling the remarkable occasion when Duterte hosted Abe in his home in Davao.
After this visit, the two leaders are expected to meet again in the Philippines along with other foreign leaders for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summit this November.
Meanwhile, Laurel said Duterte’s visit to Japan would also be an opportune time for the President to meet with His Majesty Emperor Akihito and Her Majesty Empress Michiko.
“Now, the reason why he’s coming here was to meet with the Emperor. And you must remember that the Emperor has already been given the right to abdicate. The Emperor is in his mid-80s and he’s getting tired. And this is the last official chance that the current Emperor could meet with the current President before there is a formal turnover next year,” the ambassador said.
It may be recalled that Duterte had to cancel his state call on the Japanese royal family during his official visit to Japan last year due to the death of Emperor Akihito’s uncle Prince Mikasa.
Laurel said there was another attempt to visit the Japanese monarchy sometime last May or July but it was again put on hold because of the Marawi siege.
Several overseas Filipinos expressed their excitement and optimism about the President’s forthcoming visit to Japan.
“His love for the country is infectious. And we wanted that now he’s given us so much hope that there’s really, I mean, serious changes. And it’s not just lip service, we see that’s really happening. In such a short time he’s done so much. But people forget that because there’s more negativity that’s being, you know, played and it could be expected. For me, it was like a jump to heaven,” said Charito who is a world-class jazz artist based in Japan.
Filmmaker Jose “Joey” Manalang likewise expressed support for the current administration saying that “things are getting better” in the country right now.
“Ang pinaka the best iyong sa akin iyong smoking kasi allergic ako sa smoke. So pag may naglalakad, especially sa Japan iyong no smoking,” he said adding that he is looking forward to see more developments in the Philippines to encourage more Filipinos to return home.
For Alden Estolas, who is a young leader of a Filipino community in Japan, he said he believes in President Duterte despite negative criticisms being thrown at him.
“Although may mga negative na naibabato sa kanya pero alam ko na gusto niya ng pagbabago. Alam ko na gusto niyang walain ang kriminalidad, ang droga, ang kurapsyon sa Pilipinas. Masayang-masaya ako dahil closer nga iyong ties ng Philippines at saka Japan nowadays,” he said. ###PND