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Onward and Upward: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Visit Pushes Momentum of PH-Japan Strategic Partnership

by: H.E. Manuel M. Lopez
Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Japan

On July 26-27, yet another important page in the history of Philippine-Japan relations will be written with the visit to the Philippines of His Excellency Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, on the invitation of His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The visit attests to the particular importance given by the Abe Government to the Philippines, being one of Japan’s recognized bilateral strategic partners. Since 1956, bilateral relations have been mutually beneficial and characterized by cooperation in a wide range of fields. More importantly, Philippine-Japan ties stand out in the region for being underpinned by a strong shared adherence to the values of democracy, humanitarian principles and the rule of law.

Much value is attached to the Prime Minister’s forthcoming visit in terms of elevating the Philippine-Japan Strategic Partnership to an even higher plane of vigour, dynamism and relevance. It is the first visit under the Prime Minister’s second term. Prime Minister Abe was also the last Japanese Prime Minister to visit the Philippines, in 2006.

The visit comes at a most propitious time, with both countries undergoing an economic renaissance and riding a wave of renewed optimism and international confidence.

Prime Minister Abe will visit a Philippines that has become Asia’s fastest growing and most resilient economy. Japanese interest in the country is reaching new heights, buttressed by sterling economic indicators and investment-grade ratings, and, according to the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a standing as the top profit centre for Japanese businesses operating in the region.

Similarly, Japan seems poised for an economic revival under Prime Minister Abe. Abenomics — combining aggressive reflation, fiscal stimulus, reform and restructuring — has captured world attention and appears to be making inroads revving up the world’s third largest economy.

It is against this positive backdrop that President Aquino and Prime Minister Abe will hold their Summit Meeting. Both leaders are expected to commit themselves to the comprehensive enhancement of the Strategic Partnership. They will take stock of gains in the relationship and chart the path of bilateral cooperation, with an eye towards making bilateral ties the region’s most economically vibrant and a pillar of regional security and stability.

Certainly, the visit signals Japan’s steady commitment to Philippine development. Japan is our top trading partner, top source of ODA, and one of its largest sources of FDI and foreign tourists. In 2012, two-way trade reached US$16.33 billion, while approved investments from Japan hit PHP 69.04. The visit is seen as catalyzing Japan’s support for the Aquino Administration’s priority programs in infrastructure development, the improvement of the business environment, disaster preparedness, and various other critical areas.

Japan has enthusiastically welcomed the progress in the GPH-MILF talks and the Roadmap of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Prime Minister Abe’s visit will see Japan’s continued backing for peace and development in Mindanao, by way of political support and concrete economic assistance.

As maritime nations bound by shared values and a shared recognition of prevailing regional challenges, the enhancement of the Philippine-Japan Strategic Partnership in the political-security arena also stands to receive a big boost from the meeting of the two leaders. It will provide occasion to review the prevailing regional security environment and to pledge a common stand in support of the rule of law and the just and peaceful resolution of disputes, including vis-à-vis global maritime commons.

Finally, Prime Minister Abe’s visit is also seen to propel forward our people-to-people ties, including reciprocal tourism and youth exchanges. This is timely. More and more Japanese tourists — 412,474 in 2012 – are discovering why “its more fun in the Philippines”. Japan, meanwhile, is turning to Filipinos and other ASEAN countries to rev up inbound tourism.

Prime Minister Abe heads to a Philippines that, in the words of President Aquino, is “ready to take our place as a reliable member of the community of nations, a nation serious about its commitments and which harmonizes its national interests with its international responsibilities…a predictable and consistent place for investment, a nation where everyone will say, ‘it all works’.”

The Philippines is truly open for business and warmly welcomes Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to its shores.


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