By Lilian Mellejor
DAVAO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte sees more special infrastructure projects to come under the administration’s Build, Build. Build program after the Japanese government’s pledge an assistance of $9 billion.
Duterte also sealed business agreements with industry leaders valued at $6 billion. The President arrived in Davao City Tuesday night from a three-day visit to Japan, which he described as productive and engaging.
He vowed to work closely with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who committed to give flesh to Japan’s special assistance program, to ensure that projects have to proceed soonest and it will be “Done, Done, Done.”
The President said Japan’s vital support for the centerpiece projects especially the social infrastructure under the administration’s Build program was top of the agenda during their discussion.
Duterte highlighted the need for these social infra projects to sustain economic growth and improve the quality of life of the Filipino people.
The agenda discussed with Prime Minister Abe, Duterte said, would even further intensify bilateral cooperation. Among the other agenda were on defense and security cooperation to combat terrorism, violent extremism and transnational crimes.
“We will strive to make our waters free and open to our peoples so that they can enjoy our rich natural maritime resources,” he said.
During the press briefing after his speech, Duterte said one of the issues in defense and cooperation was the South China Sea. He said Japan is one of the countries that is really interested in the freedom of navigation, especially coming in from the Indian Ocean.
“And there’s a lot of buildings there by China, and also some other countries are claiming some islands -- Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia. It could be, really, a messy thing not only in the Philippines. Pati sila (Also them) because each and every country has an economic zone and it is overlapping,” Duterte stressed.
He said China is not only claiming a majority of the area, but also in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. “But always, we can resolve it by just talking.
“In the meantime that we are not really prepared, just about anything except to talk. And then let us just talk,” he added.
Duterte pointed out that he cannot imagine the Philippines getting involved in a violent and almost a suicide action.
“You can read all the legal treaties there claiming this and claiming that. But the problem, I said, is I do not want to criticize the big powers now because it was really of their own making,” he said.
Duterte said that China has committed to the Philippines not to build anything near Pagasa/Scarborough.
“I hope that they would honor that commitment to us,” he said.
On economic cooperation, Duterte said, he has encouraged Japan to explore more opportunities to invest in the Philippines, including in steel manufacturing, agribusiness and IT and creative services.
He said the $6 billion signed business agreements are “more than three times the amount of sealed businesses agreements during my first visit to Japan in 2016,” the referring to his first visit to Japan last year.
Meanwhile, Duterte was impressed by how His Majesty, Emperor Akihito and Her Majesty Michiko lead simple lives. He said he was humbled to meet with them.
“I conveyed to His Majesty our nation’s and people’s deep appreciation, gratitude for Japan’s continuing friendship and support for the Philippines’ peace and development goals,” he said.
The President underscored the Philippines relation with Japan as a friend closer than a brother.
“Japan treats us as a sovereign equal,” he emphasized.
He said the Philippines will work with Japan in building something special for our nations and peoples: We are building a golden age for our strategic partnership.
He said that whatever happened in the World War II are all “water under the bridge”. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)
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