Strengthening PHL-Japan strategic partnership

(Opening statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. at the joint press conference with H.E. Taro Kono, Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, on February 10, 2019 at Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City.)

Good morning.  

It is my honor and pleasure to welcome to the Philippines, and to the lovely City of Davao, His Excellency Taro Kono, Foreign Minister of Japan, and his delegation, as the Minister undertakes his first bilateral official visit to our country.

Foreign Minister Kono’s visit testifies to our long-standing friendship and, since 2011, our Strategic Partnership — one continually affirmed at the highest levels by our leaders. This Strategic Partnership is anchored on mutually beneficial cooperation founded on a shared adherence to universal values, including freedom, democracy, the rule of law, respect for basic human rights, and a free and open economy, as well as our shared aspiration for peace, stability and prosperity for our larger region.

Today, with our delegations, Minister Kono and I engaged in a candid and therefore productive discussion and exchange of views.

We reaffirmed the strength of our Strategic Partnership, taking stock of progress in broad areas of fruitful cooperation. From there we proceeded to examine our cooperation in defense, maritime security, infrastructure development, human resource development, health, disaster risk reduction and management, and people-to-people exchanges —in each case reaching understandings and making commitments to specific undertakings.

We focused on Mindanao and helping the region reap the dividends of a long promised and much delayed peace. We emerge from this morning’s meeting freshly confident about prospects for realizing Mindanao’s promise in the wake of positive, indeed striking developments, in bringing Bangsamoro to reality. The inauguration of the Japanese Consulate-General later this evening demonstrates Japan’s enduring commitment to Mindanao, especially with the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. That the political exercise took place at all—and that all the parties concerned took part in was victory in itself. It substitutes the narrative of secession and war with a narrative of democracy and progress.

Japan is at the forefront of the road to the realization of Mindanao’s great promise. The Road Development Project in Conflicted-Areas in Mindanao, on which we exchanged notes, is an important step toward that goal by allowing communities long ravaged by conflict to heal, to live and work in safety, and enjoy the dividends of peace.

On a broader level, we agreed to sustain and further strengthen economic cooperation. The story of Japan’s engagement with the Philippines is about being at the pinnacle of key aspects of international interaction — Japan is the number one source of ODA, she is our largest investor, our second biggest trading partner, and our fourth largest tourism market. I thank Minister Kono for reaffirming Japan’s desire to maintain its eminent stature among Philippine partners in progress.

Infrastructure cooperation figured prominently in our discussions. In the context of the President’s infrastructure program, Japan’s commitment, generosity, and technological know-how is ushering in an era of accelerated modernization. Nowhere is this more evident than in the upcoming groundbreaking of the Philippines’ first subway, which President Duterte said heralds a new, historic stage in Philippine transportation and urban development. Such projects set the pace and raise the bar for future collaboration. Both our governments have committed to continue this trajectory.

Our economic cooperation is mutual; we recognized the space that exists for the Philippines to contribute to Japan’s own ongoing economic revitalization. In this world of interconnected economies, Japanese participation in Philippine progress helps drive Japan’s growth.

Just as significantly, we reviewed our defense and security engagement, and pledged to persist in our efforts to open new doors for cooperation in this field — in terms of equipment, education and training, and other modalities. Japan will stay our steady partner in strengthening our defense capabilities as we modernize our armed forces and bolster maritime security in the region. 

This particular area of cooperation does not exist in a vacuum; it takes place in the context, and under the intense pressures of the larger regional security situation. We both recognize that the regional security environment is fraught with challenges, including in the West Philippine Sea and the Korean Peninsula. As maritime countries with unique similarities; as neighbors whose sea-lanes of communication may be similarly affected by recent developments; we recognized the imperative of further bilateral cooperation. At the same time, we acknowledged that keeping and promoting the region’s peace and stability is a collective responsibility; one that must be underpinned by mutual trust, sincere dialogue, and functional cooperation.

The two of us come from a productive meeting this morning with a single mind—that our two countries must sustain the effort to keep and to grow the gains of our Strategic Partnership. Building on past achievements, and seizing opportunities offered by the future, this partnership will flourish and endure. Thank you.


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