(Opening statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. at the Bilateral Meeting with H. E. Taro Kono, Japan’s minister of foreign affairs, on February 10, 2019, at Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City.)
Your Excellency Foreign Minister Taro Kono and the members of your delegation.
We take great pleasure in welcoming you to the City of Davao—every weekend the country’s capital.
In 1957, President Carlos P. Garcia welcomed Prime Minister Abe’s grandfather, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, to the Philippines, and expressed “sincere hope that (his) presence in our country…will presage the birth of a new era of closer friendship and more sympathetic understanding between the Filipinos and the Japanese.”
A year later, Prime Minister Kishi welcomed President Garcia to Tokyo. These reciprocal leaders’ visits, the first since the normalization of our relations, marked the beginning of a tradition of high-level visits and dialogues that have come to define and underpin Philippine-Japan ties—the most vibrant in the region—that happily continue to this day. I thus thank you, Minister Kono, for accepting my invitation to undertake your first bilateral official visit to the Philippines.
This morning is an opportunity for stocktaking and for advancing our cooperation to more mutually beneficial outcomes. Japan has been our staunchest partner. Presently, Japan is at the forefront among partners helping President Duterte achieve his transformative agenda – in infrastructure, social inclusion, and securing peace and progress in Mindanao.
In the context of President Duterte’s vision for economic expansion leading to an inclusive, just, and stable society, Japan’s assistance has proved vital. Not only has it been consistent and resolute, it has also become the gold standard — in quality of outcomes, breadth and in the generosity of its terms; indeed, it is the template for similar such arrangements with other countries. They testify to Japan’s selfless commitment to the Philippines.
But we meet today not only to take bilateral relations further forward. The regional security and economic situation provides a larger context for our future cooperation. I thus look forward to engaging Your Excellency in a frank exchange of views on the pressing regional concerns of our time.
The rise of new powers, coupled with economic and security challenges old and new, augur that our region will be yet again the principal stage of great power competition. A delicate balance and equilibrium needs to emerge so the region can keep its gains, grow them, and keep up the momentum. This hopefully means a balance that reaffirms the fundamental values of the modern international system — mutual respect, non-aggression, rule of law, respect for sovereignty, and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Cultivating and harnessing strategic relations among all players is vital to the continued stability and prosperity of our dynamic Asian neighborhood.
It is highly reassuring therefore to be navigating these waters with Japan, which has played an increasingly important role in contributing to regional peace and stability.
I look forward to enlightening and fruitful discussions with Your Excellency, this morning.
(Secretary Locsin invites FM Kono to deliver his opening remarks.)