MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday he was confident that the Philippines could strengthen a "gift of timeless value"— its relations with Japan– which he called "a friend closer than a brother."
Marking the 65th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations between Manila and Tokyo, Duterte said, "Japan is unrivaled in its status as one of the Philippines’ most valued partners."
"Since 1956, Philippine-Japan ties have been marked with one triumph after another. Our mutual decision to move forward while continuing to be aware of our shared meaningful history has truly been a gift of timeless value to our people," Duterte said in a July 23 statement that Malacañang released on Wednesday.
"As I have said time and again, Japan is a friend closer than a brother. Only a handful of our bilateral relationships have been as deeply transformative as the one we have with Japan," added the President.
"I am confident that the Japan-Philippines strategic partnership will continue to strengthen as our people-to-people linkages continue to deepen," he continued.
He wished Japan success in hosting the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which he said "have now become an enduring symbol of humanity’s unbowed spirit" in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic had postponed the games originally set last year.
"In celebrating the 65th Anniversary of our diplomatic ties, let us honor the legacy of the extraordinary relationship between our country and Japan," said Duterte.
"Our shared future remains bright and the horizon continues to ever expand. There are many promises that can still be fulfilled."
Japan occupied the Philippines from 1942 to 1945.
The 2 countries remained under a state of war before signing a peace treaty in 1951. The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo and the Consulate in Kobe opened in 1956.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was supposed to visit the Philippines in April but was forced to cancel the trip due to a surge in coronavirus cases in Japan.
Duterte and Suga in the preceding month discussed in a phone call the West Philippine Sea dispute and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this July, Japan donated about 1 million COVID-19 shots to the Philippines.
The partnership between Tokyo and Manila "is founded on shared universal values such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, and has entered its golden age," Suga was quoted as having said in a statement on the website of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He noted Japan has been assisting Duterte’s infrastructure program and will "continue to advance cooperation" when it comes to maritime order in the region.
Suga also renewed Japan’s commitment to helping the Philippines in fighting the pandemic and building peace in Mindanao.
"I hope that this memorable year will gather momentum for further deepening relationship between our two countries," he said.