PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd arrived on Sunday from his trip to Japan, bringing home with him billions worth of assistance and economic packages, including grants that would be enough to shoulder expenses for the rehabilitation program for Yolanda-hit provinces.
“While we arrived from Japan at early dawn, our delegation is very lively because of our excitement to bring you the good news from our voyage,” the President said in his arrival speech.
He described his trip as very productive, following meetings with officials of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and a working lunch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He praised the Japanese government for its support in the Yolanda relief and rehabilitation efforts. Abe, he said, promised an additional $66 million on top of the $50 million support Japan had already extended.
“The standby $100 million loan offered by Japan to us was raised by Prime Minister Abe to $500. With the help of Japan, World Bank, ADB [Asian Development Bank] and many other countries and institutions, the P130 billion needed to respond to the needs of communities affected by Yolanda is almost filled up,” Aquino said.
The standby loan is distinct from the grant aid that is equivalent to 6.6 billion yen.
The President also said Japan and Asean have agreed to work for peace in the region. In a joint statement, the world leaders stressed the need for cooperation and to preserve the freedom of navigation and of flight.
“In that same meeting [Japan-Asean commemorative meeting], we highlighted our firm stand on the freedom of navigation not only in our oceans but also the skies. They are clearly with us in this principle: Everyone must abide by a process that is based on solid rules and law,” Aquino further said.
“I am glad that our position is gaining more strength and support from our friends in the Asean,” he added.
Japan and some members of the Asean, including the Philippines, are locked in territorial disputes with Beijing. China has claimed islets in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that are well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
In press briefing on Sunday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. explained that the countries have asserted the right to freely navigate commercial sea lanes and air space.
“Therefore, they value freedom of navigation that can only be achieved through maritime security and safety,” the Palace official said.
Both Aquino and Coloma announced that Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has signed a P7.9 billion deal with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for an Official Development Assistance loan that would be used to buy 10 new multi-response vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard.
The project, which has a P1.3-billion counterpart funding from the Philippine government, will build up the Coast Guard’s security patrols.
Other deals include a bilateral swap arrangement between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Japan’s Ministry of Finance to provide Manila with a liquidity buffer in the face of the massive reconstruction efforts for typhoon-ravaged areas.
The President also said the Filipino community in Japan and the Japan Philippine Parliamentarians League separately donated 1 million yen for the rehabilitation program.
He met with leaders of the Japan Business Federation or Keidanren.
Coloma said JICA will help solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila. He said the agency had previously studied the traffic problem in the metropolis and will submit its recommendation and plan of action.
JOEL M. SY EGCO