Japan An Ever Reliable Ally

By Francisco Benjamin Garcia

President Duterte’s three-day visit to Japan last week is a success.

The President came home jubilant after getting firm word that re-elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will help his “Build Build Build” mega infrastructure program become a reality. It would essentially be “Done, Done, Done”.

Earlier, through, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida acknowledged Duterte's remarks have triggered concern as he told reporters he planned to ask what the Philippine President’s real intentions were. 

This was as regards Duterte’s announcement while in Beijing that the Philippines was “separating” from the United States on both the economic and military front. The US is Japan’s sole military ally.

Only last September, several Japanese officials were wary about Duterte’s scheduled visit to their country and their concern is not just about his ambivalent foreign policy toward the US, but also about his informal style, especially his gum chewing that he might do in front of their emperor.

On his arrival, he touted about Tokyo’s reaffirmation of its commitment to help the Philippines realize its dream of achieving the “golden age of infrastructure” that will match its fast-growing economy.

In Davao, he expressed optimism that most of the projects under his vaunted P8-trillion “Build, Build, Build” program will be finished within his six-year term with the help of the Japanese prime minister.

“This covers huge impact social infrastructure projects that our country needs to sustain economic growth and improve the quality of life of our people,” Duterte said in his arrival speech.

 

Commitments 

“Prime Minister Abe committed to give flesh to Japan’s special assistance program. I am committed to work closely with him to ensure that projects proceed soonest and it will be Done, Done, Done.”

Abe has reaffirmed during Duterte’s latest visit to Japan Tokyo’s commitment to provide 1 trillion yen or roughly P456 billion worth of economic assistance.

A portion of the 1-trillion yen financial package includes a 104.53-billion yen loan for the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project, aimed at solving the transportation and traffic congestion problem in the Philippine capital.

About P356 billion (800-billion yen) is needed to complete the entire subway project and Japan, known for its high-speed bullet trains and efficient transportation system, might provide more aid to complete the project.

For this loan package, Japan has agreed to a 0.1 percent per annum rate of interest, payable for 28 years after a grace period of 12 years.

A loan of up to 9.399-billion yen may also be provided by Japan for the Arterial Road Bypass Project (Phase III) in Plaridel City, Bulacan.

The project seeks to reduce traffic congestion and improve transportation capacity in Plaridel City by constructing a bypass road along the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway, a general arterial highway that directly connects Metro Manila with Central Luzon.

The interest rate for this project is 1.5 percent per annum, payable for 20 years after the grace period of 10 years.

Japan is also exploring the possibility of providing a loan of up to 15.928 billion yen for the Cavite Industrial Area Flood Risk Management Project, aimed at reducing flooding in Cavite, which is mainly an industrial area.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Taro Kono exchanged notes on this project in the presence of Duterte and Abe.

 

Business Deals

A total of 18 business deals worth $6 billion were signed during Duterte’s second visit to Japan.

The President noted that this is thrice the amount of sealed business agreements during his first visit to Japan in 2016 worth $1.85 billion. 

Japan pledged to provide the Philippines with 1 trillion yen in financial package in January this year, after China, during Duterte’s visit to Beijing in October 2016, offered Manila with $24 billion (roughly 2.5 trillion yen) worth of investment pledges. 

The investment pledges seem to have made the Philippines a battleground for support for both China and Japan, which have competing claims over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

The Philippines, too, has a dispute with China over the South China Sea, but the firebrand leader has chosen to downplay this in pursuit of warmer ties with Asia’s richest nation.

“You can read all the legal treaties there claiming this, claiming that. But the problem I said is I don’t want to criticize the big powers,” he said.

“In the meantime, I said, since there is no space to talk about violent options, let us just continue (talks).” (With reports from Philippine Star)

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