TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - A group of Filipino women who were sex slaves for the then Imperial Japanese Army during World War II expressed fear at the arrival Thursday of Japanese troops to help with emergency relief operations on the typhoon-hit island Leyte in the central Philippines.
Pointedly noting their demand for justice for the crimes committed against them seven decades ago remains unsettled, they also expressed fear the abuse they went through may be repeated on the present generation of Filipino women in Leyte.
Richilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina, told Kyodo News by telephone that while they appreciate the kindness of Japan for sympathizing with the victims of supertyphoon Haiyan, the "comfort women" do not welcome the presence of the Japanese troops and their ships.
"We are allergic to them. We all know the Japanese government still owes our lolas (ageing sex slaves). As victims of wartime sexual slavery, the lolas find the presence of Japanese troops a threat to their emotions, and to the present generation, who might experience the abuses again," Extremadura said.
"It's all the more sensitive for the lolas because Leyte is historical. In fact, many of our members are from Leyte, and (many) have all died without getting justice," she said.
Japan is sending around 1,180 personnel from its Self-Defense Forces to the Philippines to provide medical support, quarantine and transport relief supplies in areas badly hit by Haiyan on Nov. 8.
The transport vessel Osumi and escort vessel Ise, carrying about 700 military personnel and a medical team, are to arrive near Leyte on Friday, along with the supply vessel Towada.
The ships will be used as the team's main base for relief operations.
Japan also sent a C-130 cargo plane that has been transporting people and supplies over the past few days. It will send helicopters and other transport aircraft.
"Yes, we need medicines and the humanitarian aid of Japan, but are the Japanese soldiers really needed for the rehabilitation?" Extremadura asked. "We might have a different reaction if justice had been given already to the comfort women. Or, we would not have been alarmed if they only sent civilians like members of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency)."
An estimated 1,000 Filipino women were sexually abused by the Japanese military during World War II.
More than 130 of them remain living and continue to demand an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government.
The Japanese presence on Leyte was high during its occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s that culminated during the war with the return of the U.S. forces led by Gen. Douglas McArthur.
During the December 2004 earthquake tragedy on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and around the Indian Ocean, Japan sent 925 troops to extend assistance.
Haiyan has left more than 4,000 people killed so far and massive destruction in many central Philippine provinces.