PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Japan yielded 21.4 billion yen (P9.9 billion) worth of soft loans for maritime security and agribusiness, as Manila and Tokyo reinforced ties.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa exchanged notes on the yen loan projects Wednesday, as President Duterte and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe committed to ensure maritime security in the region.
Bulk of the yen loan will be for the Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project Phase 2, which will improve the capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard for search and rescue and law enforcement.
Japan will provide 16.5 billion yen in financing for two-large scale patrol vessels to be built by Japanese shipbuilders.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency financed the first phase of the project in 2013, involving 10 44-meter multi-role response vessels.
The first of the 10 vessels was delivered in April. Succeeding deliveries are expected every quarter until completion in 2018.
The second loan project, “Harnessing Agribusiness Opportunities through Robust and Vibrant
Entrepreneurship Supportive of Peaceful Transformation” or Harvest, is expected to generate investments and yield jobs and income opportunities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and neighboring areas.
“The Philippines lies along vital sea lands and is thus an important country in geographical and regional security terms. Therefore, sustainable growth of the Philippines will contribute to the stability and development in the East Asian region,” the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement.
Meet with emperor cancelled
Duterte ended his official visit to Japan on Thursday without meeting the Japanese emperor.
The call on Emperor Akihito was cancelled following the death of his 100-year-old uncle Prince Mikasa on Thursday.
Duterte, who had told Japanese media how much he was looking forward to meeting Akihito, said he understood the last-minute cancellation.
“I’d like to express my deepest condolence,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“The protocol officer said I should not go there because they are in mourning and I respect that because I would ask for the same request if I were in his shoes.”
The scheduled meeting had Japan on faux pas alert with concerns about Duterte’s possible misbehavior spiking after a video of him meeting President Xi Jinping in China last week showed him apparently chewing gum – considered rude in Japan on such an occasion.
Duterte told reporters Japan did not offer to serve as a go-between amid his rift with the United States.
The possibility that a shift in Philippine relations with the US could alter the regional balance of power has raised concerns in Tokyo, which considers both Manila and Washington important allies in the region.
During his visit to Beijing last week, Duterte announced his “separation” from the US economically and militarily.
He later toned down his remarks, explaining that he did not mean to say he would sever diplomatic ties with the US.
Duterte said Abe asked him to explain his anti-American rhetoric during talks on Wednesday.
“I told him they were mere words. Why would you give these things any importance,” Duterte said in the port city of Yokohama, southwest of Tokyo, where he observed Japanese coast guard rescue drills.
However, Duterte said he then repeated his anti-American grievances to Abe, including that Washington unfairly raised human rights concerns and treated the Philippines like a “dog.”
Duterte has used his three-day trip to Japan to highlight close economic and investment ties, and has gone out of his way to praise the country and its people.