MANILA - While visiting a country known for stern discipline and rigid protocols, President Rodrigo Duterte was his usual playful self during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo Monday night.
“I will skip two pages of my prepared speech and go to the last page because I am hungry,” Duterte, known for deviating from prepared speeches, quipped in his remarks, drawing laughter from the audience.
In his speech, Duterte said that while it was already his second visit to Japan as President, “I must tell you that my personal interest and excitement over this trip has not diminished.”
“Over excellent food and even better company, we have this opportunity tonight to look back not only on a most productive day but also to consider the many things we have accomplished together to advance the Philippines and Japan Strategic Partnership since 2016,” he said.
The President added that the Philippines-Japan friendship is one “that is held dearly and valued so much more than words can describe.”
Abe, for his part, extended his gratitude to Duterte for hosting him in his visit to the Philippines in January this year.
“I very much appreciate the gracious hospitality extended to me and to my wife,” the Japanese leader said.
“Literally, we have been like family in deepening our close ties over time and I am very pleased with such warm relationship,” he said.
He also shared a light-hearted remark to the audience, where he noted that 90 percent of those who viewed the video clip of his visit to Davao City uploaded on his official Facebook page were Filipinos spread across the globe.
“So only the 10 percent account for those of us Japanese. So I would like to encourage Japanese to pay more attention to my Facebook account,” Abe said.
“But I truly believe that the total of 1.3 million access counts were the testament to the deep, warm, family-like and brotherly relationship between Japan and the Philippines,” he said.
Duterte started his 2-day official visit to Japan on Monday, his second visit to the second wealthiest Asian nation since becoming President.
The visit aims to further improve thriving relations between Manila and Tokyo under Duterte and Abe, who recently won the Japanese elections.
The official visit also saw Filipino business leaders striking $6 billion worth of deals with Japanese firms.
The Japanese government also pledged its support for the rebuilding of Marawi City, while details of the Japan-funded Manila subway system were also discussed.
Another highlight in Duterte's second visit to Japan was his meeting with Japanese Emperor Akihito and wife Empress Michiko at the historic Imperial Hotel.
The meeting between Duterte and Abe took place ahead of two key regional meetings in November where they are expected to again cross paths: the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Da Nang, Vietnam and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.