Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko started their historic five-day state visit to the Philippines on Tuesday, the first for a reigning Japanese emperor.
The burning issue on “comfort women,” however, will not be tackled during their stay in Manila, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The plane carrying the imperial couple landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 2:45 p.m.
The visitors were welcomed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd and other government officials.
The emperor and empress will be in the Philippines for five days to mark the 60th anniversary of normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“The Philippines is deeply honored to welcome their Imperial Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, on the occasion of their state visit,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
“Their visit underscores the abiding friendship between the Japanese and Filipino people. As our country charts the path that leads to sustainable, inclusive growth we are fortunate that Japan is our steadfast partner and ally,” he added.
The couple’s first schedule in Manila will be a meeting with Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers.
On Wednesday, welcome rites will be held in Malacañang to be followed by wreath-laying at the Rizal Monument in Luneta and at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
A state banquet will be held in the evening.
The emperor and empress will leave the country on January 30.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the issue on the “comfort women” will not be raised despite demand of some of the former sex slaves for a public apology and compensation.
Seoul struck a landmark deal with Tokyo last month for a one-billion-yen ($8.3 million) payment and a “heartfelt apology” to the South Korean “comfort women.”
Despite intense lobbying from the women, the Philippine government has not initiated similar negotiations with Japan.
The Philippines and Japan have become close allies since the war, and Akihito’s five-day visit is to celebrate 60 years of renewed diplomatic relations.
Japan is the Philippines’ biggest source of foreign investment and aid.
The Philippines had in recent years also increasingly looked to Japan for military help to counter Chinese expansion in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).