THE Philippines will accord Japanese Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko a red carpet welcome upon their arrival today at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd will lead government officials in welcoming the royal guests.
The royal couple will begin their five-day visit today to mark the 60th anniversary of normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines, Malacañang said.
Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. quoted Aquino as saying earlier, in reference to Japan and its people, “we have found steadfast partners and friends in the truest sense of the word,” as concretely manifested by its being the largest contributor of official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines.
Coloma added that Japan is also one of the leading international advocates of the peace process in Mindanao and has provided significant assistance to the Philippines in terms of improving urban transportation and in providing relief to calamity victims.
While the emperor is not the head of state, under the Japanese Constitution, he is a symbol of Japan.
The couple’s visit is widely seen as a “ceremonial bringing together” of the two countries, whose relationship was scarred by the outbreak of World War II in the 1940s.
A state banquet awaits the emperor and the empress, whose itinerary includes visits to Intramuros in Manila, the Japanese Memorial Garden in Caliraya, Quezon, and the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños, Laguna.
The emperor first visited the country in the 1960s during the time of the then-President Diosdado Macapagal.
It was not immediately known if Philippine leaders would discuss concerns related to the remaining “comfort women,” or those who were forced to become sex slaves during the war.
The emperor and empress will leave the country on January 30 to return to Japan.
Aquino visited Japan last year and was accorded Japan’s highest honor, the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum.
He was given the opportunity to address the National Diet, Japan’s legislative body.