PH, Japan sign pacts on social security, rail project

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The Philippines and Japan on Thursday night signed bilateral agreements on social security and rail project while increasing defense partnership following the Paris attacks that killed 129 people.

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The agreements were signed after the bilateral meetings between Philippines President Benigno Aquino III and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City.

President Aquino described the meeting, which was the seventh between the two leaders, as “extremely productive”.

It was held after the conclusion of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit on Thursday at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

The two leaders witnessed the signing of the Philippines-Japan Social Security Agreement which will maintain the benefit rights of workers who have divided their careers between the Philippines and Japan.

The Philippines and Japan also signed the exchange of notes and the loan agreement for the North-South Commuter Railway Project connecting Malolos to Tutuban.

“This will certainly help us improve the land transportation capacity of the greater Metro Manila area and provide a more environmentally sustainable mode of transport,” President Aquino said during the joint press briefing.

The railway project will be funded through Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) which “has been vital in helping improve our investment climate,” according to the Philippines leader.

President Aquino took the opportunity to express the Filipino people’s deep appreciation to Japan’s continued support with regard to the Bangsamoro Peace Process by means of the implementation of the second phase of the Japan Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction and Development (JBIRD).

“On behalf of the Filipino people, I once again thank the Japanese people for their immeasurable kindness,”” President Aquino said.

President Aquino said Japan remains the Philippines’ largest bilateral trading partner and among the largest sources of investments.

“We hope to further boost the synergies of our economic cooperation for the benefit and progress of the peoples of both our countries and the greater region,” he said.

Abe reiterated the position of Japan to make further contributions to the peace and stability of the region and the global community through the two countries’ policy of proactive contribution to peace.

“We welcomed the agreement in principle on transfer of defense equipment and agreed to work together for the early signing of agreement and realization of cooperation in defense equipment,” Abe said.

He also said the request of President Aquino regarding the provision of large patrol vessels for Philippine Coast Guard will be considered by Japan.

The Prime Minister of one of the world’s top economies said he reported to President Aquino the Japan’s decision to provide 15 billion yen to support the agribusiness project in Mindanao.

On the regional peace and stability, the two leaders share concerns over “unilateral actions” to change the status quo such as the large scale land reclamation and building of outpost in the South China Sea.

“At the same time, we confirmed the importance of partnership in the global community based on the rule of law to protect open, free and peaceful seas,” Abe said.

Abe reiterated the Japan’s position to continue to support the resolution of the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute through international law.

He said the opening of a series of celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Philippines-Japan diplomatic relations will be mark by the visit to the Philippines of Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko early next year.

“We look very much forward to cooperating closely with the Philippines to make Their Majesties visit a great success. It will be a gesture of new impetus for our friendship and I look forward to working further with the Philippines to make further contributions to the stability and prosperity of the region and of the world,” Abe said.

The Japanese leader congratulated the Philippines for successful hosting of the APEC Leaders’ Meeting.

”My deepest respect to President Aquino for your strong leadership that has guided the series of meetings to a great success,” Abe said. PNA

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