Duterte off to Japan for enthronement of Emperor Naruhito

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 21 2019 06:33 PM | Updated as of Oct 22 2019 11:50 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte. Presidential Photo/file

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte flew to Japan Monday night to join other world leaders in witnessing the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito.

The President left his hometown Davao City 6:30 p.m. Monday with a "lean delegation" to attend the historic ceremony on Tuesday.

Duterte, who earlier said he wanted to attend the ceremony even for half a day, "believes that it is but proper to give honor to an important partner by being present at the enthronement ceremony," his spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

Among those the President brought with him to his two-day trip to Japan were his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, Senator Christopher "Bong" Go, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V, Special Envoy to Japan Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte, and Chief of Presidential Protocol, and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje.

Manila considers Tokyo as a "special strategic partner" and "greatly" values its bilateral ties, Panelo said.

Japan is the Philippines' top source of development assistance and second major trading partner next to China.

"The golden age of Philippines-Japan friendship has indeed started to unfold," Panelo said.

Among the guests that will attend Naruhito's enthronement are Britain's Prince Charles, who along with Princess Diana attended Akihito's enthronement ceremony, US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon.

Also attending are Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Myanmar leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will also likely attend, according to domestic media reports, but their names were not on a list issued by the government on Friday.

Following the enthronement ceremonies on Tuesday, a court banquet will be held to be attended by foreign dignitaries and representatives of Japan's executive, legislative and judicial branches, and their spouses.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako, his Harvard-educated, ex-diplomat wife, will host a tea party for foreign royalty the following afternoon.

Abe will then host a banquet for about 900 foreign leaders and other delegation members at Tokyo's Hotel New Otani in the evening.

Malacañang confirmed that Duterte would attend both banquets before returning to the Philippines on Thursday.

-with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News and Reuters