Japan vowed to develop stronger ties as Fumio Kishida, Japanese Foreign Minister, began his first foreign trip to Manila on Thursday since his country’s election last month.
These include improving infrastructure in the Philippines through official development assistance (ODA), expanding trade and investment by improvement of business environment and cooperation as dictated by big changes in the region’s security equation.
“I am pleased to come to the Philippines as my first country to visit after assuming the post of Foreign Minister. I am grateful to Secretary Del Rosario for his warm hospitality,” Kishida said.
For his part, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert Del Rosario noted that Japan is the Philippines’ number one trade partner with total trade exceeding US$13 billion last year.
He said that Japan also remains as the Philippines’ top export market for 2012.
The DFA Secretary said the Philippines is also looking into possible collaboration in the promotion of investments with Japanese small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).
“Japan remains the number one source of development assistance in terms of loans,” said Del Rosario. “Thus, the Philippines looks forward to stronger cooperation with Japan in developing our country’s infrastructure particularly in the transportation sector.”
He also noted that Japan ranks third in tourist arrivals, as there were 375,248 Japanese tourist arrivals between January to November 2012.
Meanwhile, The Philippines and Japan are locked in separate territorial disputes with China which have simmered for decades but intensified recently amid what the two nations perceive as increasingly aggressive Chinese tactics.
Kishida said this also made it necessary to “enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and cooperate in shaping (a) peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. In today’s meeting we agreed on this point.”
“As the strategic environment in the region is greatly changing, it is necessary for us foreign ministers to share recognition of the situation,” Kishida said after meeting del Rosario.
He also added: “On the political and security front we agreed on strengthening policy dialogue and enhancing maritime cooperation and other measures.”
“We talked about the challenges that we appear to be facing in view of the assertions being made by China,” del Rosario said.
“I think we all understand that the assertions being made by China, in terms of their nine-dash line claim for example, they do pose threats to the stability of the region.”
“I think the president [Aquino] is of the view that a stronger Japan, acting as a counter-balance in the region, would help promote stability for the Asia-Pacific,” del Rosario said.