• Aquino back from ‘fruitful’ Japan trip

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    PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd arrived on Sunday from his “fruitful” trip to Japan, bringing home billions worth of assistance and economic packages, including grants that will 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.

    Aquino said his trip was very productive following bilateral meetings with officials of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and his 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 aid of $66 million, beyond the $50 million total support it 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 post- disaster standby loan is distinct from the grant aid that is equivalent to 6.6 billion yen.

    The President also announced that Japan and members of the Asean agreed to fully adhere to and work for peace in the region. In a joint statement issued by the world leaders, they stressed the need for cooperation and to preserve the freedom of navigation and of flight.

    “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 said.

    Japan and some members of the Asean, including the Philippines, are locked in a bitter 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.

    Aquino also said that Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima signed a P7.9 billion deal with the Japan International Cooperation Agency 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 hasten the Coast Guards maritime security patrols.

    Other deals forged include a bilateral swap arrangement between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Ministry of Finance of Japan which aims to provide the Philippine government 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.

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