Duterte, Abe aim to forge personal ties with Davao meetings

Junko Horiuchi, Kyodo News

Posted at Jan 13 2017 01:19 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) and protocol officer Marciano Paynor after a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace grounds in Manila, Philippines January 12, 2017. Erik De Castro, Reuters

DAVAO CITY - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sought to strengthen personal ties Friday as they held talks for a second day, this time at the latter's private residence here.

It is the first visit by a sitting foreign leader to Davao, where Duterte served as mayor for around 22 years and enjoys more than 90-percent approval, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The leaders, who agreed on economic and security cooperation amid China's growing assertiveness in the region at their meeting on Thursday in Manila, conversed informally over breakfast at the president's residence for about an hour, the ministry said.

Davao is home to many Filipinos of Japanese descent and recipient of Japanese-funded projects for development, according to Japanese officials. Japan has a consular office there.

Duterte spends around half a week in the city on Mindanao island, even after taking office last June.

China, meanwhile, is also seeking to increase its presence in the area, saying last October that it will open a diplomatic mission in the city.

On Thursday, Abe pledged a public-private package of 1 trillion yen ($8.7 billion) to spur infrastructure development in the fast-growing Southeast Asian country, including for promoting agricultural business in Mindanao.

The Philippines is Abe's first stop of his six-day overseas trip since Thursday. The premier will also travel to Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Later Friday, the two leaders attended a ceremony where Abe named a critically endangered Philippine eagle "Sakura," which means cherry blossoms in Japanese, according to the ministry.

The bird, also known as the monkey-eating eagle and endemic to the Philippines, is the national bird of the Philippines.