• Del Rosario, Kishida discussed PH-Japan relations

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    Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida discussed through a telephone conversation the Philippines-Japan relations, as well as issues such as the comprehensive peace agreement in Mindanao and the rehabilitation of typhoon-ravaged Tacloban City.

    The conversation on January 28 (Tuesday) lasted for 15 minutes from 12 noon, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

    Based on the Strategic Partnership between the two countries, del Rosairo and Kishida both agreed that there is a continued need to strengthen the “already close bilateral relationship.”

    Kishida also took the opportunity to congratulate the Philippine government in the successful conclusion of the last and most contentious part, the Annex on Normalization, of the comprehensive peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

    The Annex on Normalization will effectively disarm the 11,000-strong MILF army, whose clashes with government forces resulted to the death of hundreds of thousands militia, rebels and civilians.

    “Foreign Minister Kishida also expressed his expectation for the steady progress in the transition process towards the establishment of Bangsamoro Government in 2016, and explained that Japan would continue and strengthen its support for the peace process to consolidate the peace in the region,” the statement said.

    Del Rosario, for his part, thanked Japan for its contribution to the Mindanao peace process through the participation in the International Monitoring Team (IMT), International Contact Group (ICG) and the Independent Commission on Policing.

    He said Tokyo has been “a steady and reliable partner of the Philippines in the field” of reaching a comprehensive peace pact in Mindanao.

    Del Rosario also expressed his appreciation for Japan’s renewed commitment of supporting the peace process.

    Last week, the Annex on Normalization, the last of four annexes, was signed in Kuala Lumpur between the two parties.

    Both parties are hoping to sign the comprehensive peace agreement before May of this year. The peace pact will pave the way for the election of the Bangsamoro Assembly and the creation of Bangsamoro Government in 2016.

    Meanwhile, Kishida also told del Rosario that Japan will remain committed “to continuing its assistance in rehabilitation and reconstruction phase.”

    Foreign Secretary del Rosario expressed his sincere appreciation for Japan’s assistance for damages caused by typhoon Hainan which hit central part of the Philippines in November last year.

    Major parts of Visayas were left devastated by Typhoon Yolanda on November 8 last year. The supertyphoon is believed to be the strongest cyclone recorded in modern history.

    The Philippine government is currently in the rehabilitation phase of its program in Tacloban City, the hardest-hit area of the typhoon. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON

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