Mindanao is focus of state visit to Japan — Duterte

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 October) – Mindanao will be the “central focus” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s three-day state visit to Japan.

In his departure message at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday, Duterte said he will give focus to Mindanao as he stressed that “together with Japan, we shall seek to put on track this island region towards a just and lasting peace and development.”

The president said he will use the trip to obtain more high impact projects that will benefit the Philippines, especially Mindanao.

He mentioned opening wider cooperation in key infrastructure development, particularly the possibility of tapping Japan’s experience and expertise in developing high quality and modern public transportation to “support the Philippines sustained growth and development.”

“The visit will be an opportunity for me to personally thank Japan for its preeminent and fearless role as the Philippines’ development partner,” he said.

He added that he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will tackle, among others, “greater political, social and defense cooperation particularly in maritime domain awareness and maritime security.”

Duterte will pay a courtesy call to Japanese Emperor Akihito and meet leaders of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentarian Friendship League.

“This courtesy call is imbued with great and special significance. It reaffirms at the highest level, the positive transformation of ties between our nations and peoples. It denotes our shared commitment to a forward looking partnership that is founded on mutual respect, dignity and solidarity,” he said.

Duterte will also seek to enhance the economic ties between the two countries, with Japan as one of the country’s top trading partners.

Records from the Philippine Exporters Confederation 11 revealed that Japan has remained the biggest buyer of Philippine Cavendish bananas, recording a whopping US$277,272,187 worth of exports in 2015, followed by China with US$157,499,048, South Korea with US$80,986,180, Iran with US$53,144,575, and United Arab Emirates with US$24,415,404.

Duterte said he will meet with Japanese business leaders to encourage them to invest in the Philippines.

“I look forward to meeting business leaders in Japan, I will tell them clearly that the Philippines is open for business,” he said.

He added that this is an important time for Philippines-Japan relations “as we advance an independent foreign policy in our engagement with the community of nations.”

“This is a defining moment for the solid and strategic partnership between Japan and the Philippines carefully nurtured over 600 years of formal diplomatic relations,” he added.

Japan, a close ally of the US, has voiced concerns over Duterte’s foreign policy pronouncements.

During his state visit to China last week, Duterte declared a “separation” from the US in terms of economic and military engagements, and hinted at greater cooperation with Beijing with which the Philippines has a territorial row in the West Philippine Sea.

Japan also has a territorial dispute with China over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese) in the East China Sea. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)