TOKYO – President Benigno Aquino III faces a packed schedule ahead of him in his four-day state visit to Japan, where business deals and the simmering South China Sea row likely to top his agenda.
Aquino is set to arrive at 3:30 p.m., local time, at the Tokyo Haneda International Airport.
First on the agenda is a series of business meetings with the chairman of the board of Kirin Holdings, Senji Miyake; the chairman of Marubeni, Teruo Asada; and Tadashi Yanai, chairman of Fast Retailing Company or Uniqlo.
Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez is hoping that discussions with Uniqlo could lead to not only the opening of more stores but also the possibility of bringing its manufacturing operations in the Philippines to help create new jobs.
Aquino will also witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Japan External Trade Organization ( JETRO) for cooperation on business promotion.
DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo will be signing for the Philippine side and JETRO chairman Hiroyuki Ishige for the Japanese side.
TOP TRADING PARTNER
Japan was the Philippines' top trading partner in 2014, with total trade reaching 19.11 billion dollars last year. Japan was also the top source of Investment Promotion Agency (IPA)-approved investments last year with total investments worth 0.8 billion dollars in 2014.
Aquino is hoping to increase it further and invite more Japanese businessmen to invest in the Philippines.
MEETING WITH FILIPINO COMMUNITY
At 7 in the evening, local time, Aquino will meet with the Filipino community here where he is expected to speak about developments in the Philippines.
He will also be introduced to nine Filipino Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadets studying at Japan's National Defense Academy as part of an exchange program and also to nurses and caregivers deployed here under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
There will also be a presentation to the President of the Disaster Preparedness Handbook for the Filipino community by Ambassador Lopez and representatives from the Network of Filipino Social Workers in Japan (NETFIL).
There are about 200,000 Filipinos in Japan, most of whom are permanent residents married to Japanese spouses.
The temporary migrants are engaged in engineering, technical skills training, education, and IT industry.
AQUINO MEETS EMPEROR, EMPRESS
As this is a state visit, there will be a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace which will take place on Wednesday. There, Aquino will be welcomed by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in an elaborate ceremony.
Aquino follows in the footsteps of his mother, President Cory Aquino, who embarked on a similar state visit in November 1986 when she was welcomed by Emperor Hirohito, the father of the current emperor.
During this visit, Aquino will be conferred Japan's highest decoration, the "Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum" while Aquino will confer on Emperor Akihito the Order of Lakandula, Rank of Supremo, and on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Rajah, in recognition of their role in the promotion of Filipino-Japanese relations.
SOUTH CHINA SEA ISSUE
A highlight of Aquino's schedule tomorrow will be his address before the joint session of the Japanese Diet or its Congress at the House of Concillors. Aquino will only be the third Philippine president to deliver a speech before the Diet, after Presidents Carlos Garcia in 1958 and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2002.
Aquino is set to hold a summit meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the third day of his visit where the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of issues including developments in the South China Sea and further the two countries' strategic partnership. Like the Philippines, Japan is locked in a territorial dispute with China, in their case, over the East China Sea.
Aquino is also expected to thank Abe for Japan's assistance in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, its development support, as well as its support for Mindanao and the peace process.
Japan has a Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development or J-BIRD program that facilities development projects in Mindanao. It is also a member of both the International Contact Group and the International Monitoring Team, which serve as security components of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Ambassador Lopez described the current relationship between the Philippines and Japan as at its "strongest" as the two are set to mark the 60th year of the formal establishment of their relations next year.
"It's probably at its strongest right now. In the 4 and a half years that I have been there, I have seen the steady progression of that relationship. I believe it will continue to grow under the presidency of President Aquino and PM Abe. They seem to have a lot of very strong vibes towards each other. That's why that relationship is very vibrant," Lopez told RTVM in an interview.
Japan is the country's 2nd largest source of official development assistance among all development partners after The World Bank.