AFTER decades of extending development assistance in the Philippines, the Official Development Assistance (ODA) of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) celebrated 60 years in the country at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila on August 7.
The event gathered over 200 Filipino and Japanese guests from the diplomatic, government and business sectors to commemorate this very strong partnership that has been upheld for six long decades.
“We have about 118 ongoing development projects in the Philippines, and have extended 2.77-trillion yen ODA as of 2012. With this we look forward to help improve the quality of life of more Filipinos,” said Noriaki Niwa, chief representative of JICA in the Philippines.
“As neighbors and partners, Japan and the Philippines have many things in common, particularly in facing natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons. Let us therefore continue working together to re-energize our cooperation, and re-think ways to grow our partnership based on common values and experiences,” the JICA executive urged.
On this landmark occasion, Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe recalled his first experience in visiting the country when he was only four years old. According to the top diplomat, the Philippines was then recovering from the Second World War and had begun to forge a new friendship with Japan through the efforts of the ODA, which in turn is guided by the philosophy of “partnership, ownership, and human security.”
“[Since then], we had realized that a focus on the people themselves was required. If the people are not empowered to fulfill their capability, our assistance to infrastructure and facilities will not be truly viable,” the ambassador related.
Meanwhile, representatives from Philippine government agencies under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as the Department of Agriculture’s PhilRice attended the milestone to express gratitude for years of support extended by ODA.
The FDA thanked JICA for providing continued training and development of their technical staff in different institutes all the way in Japan. This in turn has greatly helped the Philippines in setting standards for food and drug manufacturing.
PhilRice, on the other hand, thanked JICA for their extended support in building infrastructures and facilities such as administration and research laboratories, a dormitory and canteen, greenhouses, an engineering and farm mechanization building, a gene bank and seed storage laboratory, as well as funding experimental farm development, laboratory equipment and facilities, vehicles and farm mechanization equipment, among many other needs of the agency.
The Technical Cooperation Project initiated by ODA also had Filipino scientists and researchers traveling to Japan to learn about the development and promotion of rice-based farming technologies.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) additionally expressed gratitude for infrastructure projects supported by JICA through the ODA. Among them are the construction of the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway (PJFH) also known as the Maharlika Highway, which has formed linkages from Luzon to Mindanao through bridges, highways and the roll-on, roll-off ferry.
The Japanese government was also credited for their support in the construction of Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
Looking forward, other highly anticipated infrastructure projects with Japan’s ODA includes the capacity extension of LRT Line 1 and 2, which should provide convenience for Filipino commuters.
The event of course also highlighted the Japanese government’s unwavering relief and assistance efforts in the wake of national calamities. On behalf of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, who was unable to attend the anniversary, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan lauded the Japanese government for aiding the country following the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“The assistance of Japan—as well as that of our other friends in the international community—helped us minimize the suffering of those affected, and accelerate our relief and recovery efforts. For this, and your continued assistance in the field of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, my country is extremely grateful, and I feel the need to reiterate: We will never forget your kindness,” Balisacan read.
The celebration concluded with JICA’s launch of a commemorative magazine documenting the 60 years of friendship between the two nations; the announcement of winners of JICA’s first National Essay Writing Contest; and the introduction of JICA’s early trainees and alumni.