Economic, defense cooperation up in Duterte’s 3-day state visit to Japan
President Duterte flies today to Tokyo, where he is expected to discuss economic and defense cooperation and other shared interests with Japan.
Interest is high in the three-day official visit of Mr. Duterte among Japanese officials and Filipinos in Japan, according Consul General Marian Jocelyn Tirol-Ignacio.
The visit comes as Mr. Duterte seeks to chart a new foreign policy. He has announced a “separation” from longtime ally the United States and is moving toward embracing China.
Ignacio noted that Mr. Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were “very cordial.”
First on the schedule of Mr. Duterte’s visit is a meeting with the Filipino community in Japan.
He will also meet with the Japan-Philippines Parliamentarians Friendship League and address the Philippine Economic Forum.
After this, he will have a bilateral meeting with Abe, who will also host a dinner for him. A state call on Emperor Akihito is also part of Mr. Duterte’s itinerary.
Lot of interest
The Japan International Cooperation Agency president, Shinichi Kitaoka, as well as other business leaders will pay a courtesy call on Mr. Duterte.
Ignacio said there was a lot of interest in defense cooperation between the Philippines and Japan. Japan may lease aircraft to the country, she said.
“So what we are really anticipating right now and what we are very excited about is the possibility that there might be a lease of [TC 90s] by Japan to the Philippines,” she said.
Japanese businessmen are also excited to meet the new Philippine leader, she said.
“He has generated a lot of interest here in Japan and as you are aware, there is a lot of investment by the Japanese in the Philippines. So, they want the 10-point agenda of the President to be expounded and explained possibly in business terms,” Ignacio said.
At the economic forum, letters of intent and memorandums of understanding would be signed and these are meant to generate investments in the Philippines, she said.
“So, we have big companies both in the manufacturing and in the investment sector, in the agricultural sector,” she added.
South China Sea
It is not yet clear if the South China Sea issue will be tackled.
But on Saturday, Mr. Duterte said he may tell Abe about the need to hold talks and settle disputes over the South China Sea peacefully, following his own meeting with Chinese leaders.
He recently arrived from a four-day state visit to China where he announced the Philippines’ economic and military separation from the United States, and said his country would now be more dependent on China.
The President explained that what he meant “was a separation of a foreign policy.” He earlier vowed to end military cooperation with the United States, which some analysts said was a mistake in the face of China’s continued territorial challenge in the South China Sea.
Still, Abe would like to listen to Mr. Duterte’s explanation of his new policy, according to Atsushi Ueno, deputy chief of mission of the Japanese Embassy.
Mr. Duterte recalled that he told the Chinese leader he could not surrender anything, but they both affirmed that they did not want trouble in the disputed waters.
“And that would be, maybe also, the meat of what I would tell your minister, that we can only agree to talk peacefully, resolve the dispute and maybe come up with something that is good for everybody. Just maybe,” he said in response to a question from a Japanese reporter about his forthcoming meeting with Abe.
Mr. Duterte said future talks about the disputed waters may even include other countries, such as Japan.
He recalled that he told China that they would find the day to hold discussions solely about the South China Sea.
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