Japan’s PM Abe: the second  head of state to visit Davao City

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 January) — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be the second head of state to visit Davao City after 23 years, when Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad came for the launching of the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA).

Abe and his wife Akie arrived Thursday afternoon in Manila and arrived in Davao City late evening. He is the first foreign head of state  to visit the Philippines under the Duterte administration.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joins Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he interacts with the pupils before entering the Malacañan Palace on January 12, 2017. The Prime Minister of Japan is scheduled for a two-day visit to the country. KING RODRIGUEZ/Presidential Photo

Like Mahathir in February 1994, Abe will also return to his country from the international airport here on Friday noon.

Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974 also visited this city in the late 1960s, before she became the country’s head of state, according to businessman Angie Angliongto, Angliongto, who joined Meir in a visit to Calinan district, said the mayor then was Elias Lopez.

Abe is visiting this city which a century ago was known as “Davaokuo” and “Little Tokyo.”  (see reprint)

Duterte received Mahathir in 1994 as city mayor. He is receiving Abe as President of the Philippines.

On Friday morning,  the Prime Minister and his wife will visit President Rodrigo Duterte in his residence, after which Duterte will join Prime Minister Abe as he meets and greets with businessmen at the Waterfront Insular Hotel. Abe will also name a Philippine Eagle, have lunch and from there visit the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku (Mindanao International School), touted to be the “number one Japanese language college in the Philippines” on their way to the airport for their departure at 12:20 noon.

Abe’s wife Akie will visit Mintal Cemetery, also known in the city as the Japanese Cemetery.

The Ohta Memorial within the compound of the Mintal Elementary School in Davao City is in honor of Ohta Kyozaburo, the Japanese entrepreneur who first set up abaca plantations in the city. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Teachers and students at the Mintal Elementary School are preparing for Madame Akie.  Heavy equipment from the Department of Public Works and Highways have been deployed to the school compound which is likely the landing site for Madame Akie’s party.

Cheryl Lagang, school principal, told MindaNews that confirmation of the arrival of the Japanese First Lady came only on Monday although they had been notified of the possibility in November and December.

Lagang said only students from Grades 3 and the higher grades and the teachers will be allowd in school on Friday. The students will be waving Philippine and Japan flaglets on the roadside, she said.

Mintal Elementary School has a student population of 3,636.

The school compound also hosts an obelisk constructed in 1926  in honor of Ohta Kyozaburo, a Japanese entrepreneur who migrated to Davao City and set up the Ohta Development Company, the first Japanese Abacá plantation company in the Philippines in 1907 and several other abaca and coconut plantations and is credited for Davao’s economic growth and prosperity during that period.  Ohta died in 1917 in Kyoto, Japan.

Emerson Espino of the Davao City Mayor’s office, designated watchman at the Mintal Cemetery or Japanese Cemetery as it is also refered to, and Irisa Baluran, caretaker, help clean up the area where Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Madame Akie will offer flowers Friday. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Emerson Espino of the City Mayor’s Office, designated watchman at the Mintal Cemetery and caretaker Irisa Baluran, were among those cleaning up the area where Madame Akie is expected to offer flowers.

Espino said at least 3,000 Japanese are buried in the cemetery and busloads of Japanese visit the are particularly in the month of August.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)