MANILA - A nongovernmental group set up to help Filipinos born to Filipino-Japanese parents acquire Japanese citizenship marked the 10th anniversary of its founding on Sunday with a pledge to press on with its mission.
Hiroyuki Kawai, a Japanese lawyer who founded the Philippine Nikkeijin Legal Support Center in Manila 10 years ago, told the gathering that he is determined to carry on with his work and help members of the Filipino-Japanese community improve their livelihoods.
Kawai, the center's chairman, was born in China in 1944 and, before coming to the Philippines, devoted 25 years of his life to helping Japanese nationals displaced in China around the end of World War II to regain their Japanese citizenship.
Some 150 people, most of them Filipinos of Japanese descent, attended the anniversary celebration.
According to the center, there are an estimated 3,000 Filipinos born of Japanese men who married local Filipinos after they came to the Philippines before or during World War II.
Only 101 of them have managed to secure Japanese citizenship.
Apart from an aging second-generation of Filipinos of Japanese descent, popularly known as "nikkeijin," some third-generation nikkeijin in the Philippines are also seeking Japanese government recognition as Japanese nationals.
Among them is Juseven Austero, 44, a third-generation Filipino-Japanese who serves as the center's president.
In a speech, Austero said he is glad that Kawai and the organization have started to help the Japanese-Filipino community with its economic development program.
"It's very important because if we can't do that, it will lose the meaning of the work of attorney Kawai to regain our identity as Japanese descendants," Austero said.
Speaking to Kyodo News after the anniversary event, Kawai said it is his hope to "strengthen Filipino-Japanese descendants' society economically and sentimentally" as the center embarks on a new chapter beyond its first decade of operation.