Ambassador uses occasion to sympathize with ‘Yolanda’ victims
Tenno no Tanjoubi or the Emperor’s Birthday is an important National Holiday officially celebrated in Japan on December 23. With the date too close to the official Christmas Holidays in the Philippines, Japan Ambassador Toshinao Urabe wisely chose to celebrate the natal day of his country’s 125th tenno (emperor) in Manila on December 3, with a very successful gathering at his North Forbes Park residence.
In the presence of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alfred del Rosario, as well as other diplomats, dignitaries and government officials from the Philippines and other countries, Ambassador Urabe graciously welcomed guests to an evening of Japanese culture, while inviting Japan’s friends to recognize “the symbol of the state and of the unity of [his]people,” which make up the functions of the Emperor.
Despite the happy occasion, however, the ambassador took a moment to sympathize with the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, and offer his and his country’s condolences to the Filipino people for the many tragic deaths caused by the devastation.
With Japan’s horrific experience following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit their nation in March 2011, the ambassador said that their government understands the situation in the Visayas, and have therefore continuously donated aid for relief and rebuilding efforts, almost amounting to $35 million.
“It was only two and a half years ago when we had to face a similar devastation in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. We understand how the Filipinos feel. The government and people of Japan are doing its best to help you,” Urabe stated.
“Emergency medical teams and the SDF Joint Task Force for Disaster relief with C-130s, helicopters, ships with medical, epidemic prevention and logistics personnel have been deployed. The Japanese government’s contribution has already reached a total of $53 million in grant aid and emergency relief goods,” he added.
Besides the destruction of the recent typhoon, Urabe also recognized other national issues in the country that Japan is actively involved with, such as the oil spill in Cebu and the Mindanao peace process.
“JICA [Japan International Cooperation Agency] experts on oil spill management and post disaster reconstruction are flying in tonight are working with the authorities as we speak,” Urabe shared with a grateful audience.
“The private sector is also pitching in. In addition to the provision of medical equipment, generators and transport assistance, donations from companies, business groups, NGO’s and individuals are pouring in. The total donation is now over $7 million and counting,” he enumerated.
“Despite Typhoon Yolanda, we have not forgotten the Mindanao peace process. Last week, Dr. Yuji Uesugi, an academic specializing in peace building, participated in the first session of the International Commission on Policing held in Cotabato. We are working for peace,” he rounded up.
Urabe also recognized bilateral relationships between Japan and the Philippines, stating that the “strategic partnership is in excellent form.”
Urabe cited the “continuous flow of high level dialogues and exchanges” between the two countries, with the scheduled visit of Japan Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in January 2014, and the current visit of President Benigno Aquino 3rd to Japan for the 40th Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Japan celebrations.
Other distinguished guests from the national government include Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Senators Loren Legarda and Aquilino Pimintel 3rd, as well as congressmen from different provinces and dignitaries.
From the international community, China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Ma Keqing was present celebrate with the Japanese government despite the current territorial disputes of two countries.
His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Akihito was born on December 23, 1933, marking his 80th birthday this year since he inherited the throne in 1989. As Japan’s traditional order of succession changes, so does the country’s national holiday.
Gates of the Imperial Palace are opened on the Emperor’s Birthday where a public ceremony takes place—a rare occasion that only happens once a year. The Emperor, accompanied by the Empress and members of the Imperial Family appear on the palace balcony to greet well-wishers.