MANILA, Philippines—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting the Philippines this weekend, arriving in the country just after his party won control of the Japanese Parliament on Sunday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday Abe would be in Manila on July 26 and 27, confirming earlier Japanese press reports the official was considering visits to Southeast Asia this month.
During the two-day visit, Abe is expected to meet with President Aquino “to discuss bilateral cooperation and regional issues, and further advance the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan,” the DFA said.
“The visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will no doubt achieve a twofold purpose: It will strengthen the personal relationship between the Prime Minister and President Aquino, and it will serve to further enhance the invaluable strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan,” Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Inquirer in a text.
Abe returns to the Philippines seven years since his last visit in December 2006, during his first term as Prime Minister. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party scored an overwhelming victory in last Sunday’s Japanese elections.
He visits just as the Philippines and Japan face a common challenge in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the East China Sea, respectively, where both nations are contending with territorial claims made by regional heavyweight China.
Japan is one of only two Philippine strategic partners, the other being the United States.
Japan was the Philippines’ top trading partner in 2012 with roughly $16.33 billion, or P700 billion, in total bilateral trade last year and some P69.4 billion in approved investments.
It is also the largest source of official development assistance (ODA) with $593.3 million, or P24 billion, in both grant and loan aid disbursements in 2011, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
This accounts for around 40 percent of total ODA disbursements that year, the largest piece of the pie ahead of the United States’ $541.3 million or P22 billion.