Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is postponing plans to visit the Philippines on a trip originally set for the end of the month, Japanese media said on Wednesday.
Suga will instead focus on handling a recent surge in coronavirus cases, broadcaster FNN and other media said.
President Rodrigo Duterte's office "understands the decision of the Office of the Prime Minister to postpone the planned Official Visit of His Excellency Suga Yoshihide to the Philippines," said Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque.
"Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic is high on both the Philippines and Japan’s agenda and remains a key point of cooperation. The decision to postpone a planned Official Visit based on this ground, therefore, deserves support," he said in a statement.
"The strategic partnership and broad cooperation between the Philippines and Japan will continue to strengthen even as we jointly and individually work to address the COVID-19 pandemic."
Japan will provide 4.5 billion yen (P2 billion) grant aid through an international organization to 25 countries in Asia and the Pacific Islands region to help them build a cold-chain distribution network for COVID-19 vaccines, its foreign ministry said in March.
The grant aid will be used to secure cold-storage facilities, transport vehicles and other equipment necessary for the stable delivery of vaccines in those countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, according to the ministry.
In December, Duterte and Suga discussed over the phone various issues, including the South China Sea, diplomatic aid, and the COVID-19 crisis.
Suga also cancelled his plan to visit India in late April.
Japan and India are members of a group known as the Quad, which also includes the United States and Australia.
Quad leaders last month pledged to work to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region and to cooperate on maritime, cyber and economic security, issues vital to the four democracies in the face of challenges from China.
– With a report from Reuters