MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte, known for his crude language, must observe his manners as he meets with Emperor Akihito of Japan, a country known for valuing formality and politeness.
Former senator and ambassador Leticia Ramos-Shahani gave Duterte this unsolicited advice following concerns raised by several Japanese officials over the Filipino leader’s manners.
Shahani stressed that a meeting with the Japanese emperor is a very formal occasion that "you will even have to count the steps of the stairs."
Reports have quoted several Japanese officials as saying that Duterte may be seen chewing gum in front of the emperor, as he did with his recent meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Concerns over Dutete’s fashion sense were also raised.
"In diplomacy, protocol is very important. Ang mga Hapon ang inaasahan nila, huwag naman mag-chewing gum ang pangulo natin. Huwag naman mag-jeans,” Shahani said.
(In diplomacy, protocol is very important. The Japanese are hoping that Duterte would not chew gum and wear jeans.)
The topics to be raised and the manner to convey them, and even the distance between a visiting leader and the emperor follow protocols, Shahani added.
Duterte is now on the second of his three-day official visit in Japan, which will be concluded by his meeting with Emperor Akihito.
For most of his speaking engagements in Japan, Duterte pulled no punches against the US, which has criticized his war on drugs.
Duterte's harsh criticism of Washington is likely to be embarrassing for Tokyo, which depends on the US for its security. But Japan itself has so far avoided any criticism, while the US has taken a calm approach.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had worked to improve bilateral relations with Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino, and has continued that approach with Duterte.
Japan provided patrol boats to support the Philippines in its territorial row with Beijing over rival claims to the South China Sea, as it sought backing in its own maritime dispute with China.
Aquino took Beijing to an international tribunal over its extensive claims in the South China Sea -- where it has built artificial islands capable of hosting military facilities -- and the Philippines won a resounding victory in July.
But Duterte has not sought to use the verdict to anger China, instead working to improve ties and attract billions of dollars in Chinese loans and investments.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, said on Wednesday that the government will continue to aid Philippine development, but he sidestepped whether relations with the US will be a summit topic.
He said Abe will seek "frank exchanges of views from the standpoint that Japan and the Philippines will continue to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity.” – with Agence France-Presse