President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday described Japan, the country's top trading partner, as a "friend closer than a brother."
During a state banquet dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Duterte highlighted the Philippines' ties with Japan.
“Tonight, let me reiterate that Japan is a friend closer than a brother. That means Japan is a friend unlike any other,” Duterte said in his speech at Malacañang.
“Ours is a special friendship whose value is beyond any measure,” he added.
Duterte said the agreements signed between the two countries show that Manila and Tokyo “are moving forward together as only true friends can.”
“We are friends who are bound by shared common resolve to uphold democracy, adherence to the rule of law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes,” Duterte said.
Abe, for his part, expressed “heartfelt appreciation” for Duterte’s gesture of welcoming the Japanese entourage as “family members.”
“I hope my visit would pave way for expansion of bilateral relationship on economic context, cultural and people-to-people exchange,” Abe said.
Abe arrived in the Philippines on Thursday afternoon, the first foreign government leader to visit Manila this year and during the administration of Duterte.
Japan has pledged 1 trillion yen (P434 billion) in aid and investments to help the Philippines in its infrastructure projects.