MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said the country's bilateral ties with Japan remain strong after a Japanese official expressed displeasure over a "Comfort Woman" statue erected along Roxas Boulevard.
Japanese Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Seiko Noda on Tuesday said she told President Rodrigo Duterte that "it's regrettable for this kind of statue to suddenly appear" during their meeting in Manila.
The marker on the statue says it was erected in memory of the Filipinas who were abused at the time of the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945 during World War II.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque downplayed Noda's comments, saying the statue does not concern bilateral ties with Japan which remain "very strong."
"I don't think this is really a bilateral issue because our ties with Japan are very strong. We have every reason to be optimistic that bilateral relations with Japan will become even more stronger," he said in a press briefing.
"He (Duterte) values the very close bilateral relations that we have with Japan currently," he added.
The statue, erected along Roxas Boulevard, had earlier caught the attention of Japanese embassy officials and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Over a thousand Filipino women are estimated to have served as comfort women during the nearly 5-year Japanese occupation.