MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Dr. Ines Yamanouchi Mallari, an academic institution head in Mindanao, were named Wednesday as recipients of two Japanese government awards.
Gazmin, who was Defense chief during the administration of the late President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III from 2010 until 2016, is conferred with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, the second of six classes in the Order, Japan's embassy in Manila said.
It is "in recognition of his contribution to strengthening the relationship between Japan and the Philippines on national defense," having taken an initiative to sign important pacts during his incumbency, the embassy said.
It cited the “Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges Between The Ministry of Defense of Japan and The Department of National Defense of The Republic of the Philippines” in 2015, and the “Agreement Between The Government of Japan And The Government of The Republic of the Philippines Concerning The Transfer of Defense Equipment And Technology” in 2016.
"Japan highly valued his efforts to support the peace and stability of Asia Pacific and other regions," said the embassy.
Asked for his reaction, Gazmin told ABS-CBN News he is "honored and humbled" by the recognition which is Japan's first award, having been established in 1875.
"I appreciate the acknowledgement accorded by Japan to my modest contribution in deepening the ties between the Philippines and Japan in general, and between our defense establishments in particular," he said.
"When we signed the Memo on Defense Cooperation between DND of RP and MOD of Japan in 2015, our shared intention was to lay the foundation for a closer defense cooperation," he added.
Mallari, president of Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku located in Davao City, is conferred with The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, the third class in the Order.
It is "in recognition of her contribution to promoting academic exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and the Philippines," the embassy said.
A third-generation Japanese descendant, Mallari introduced initiatives that helped her school provide "a wide range of curriculum related to Japan, including Japanese language," said the embassy.
"She has been exerting her efforts to introduce Japanese culture and promote the cultural exchange between two countries," it said.
"(She) has also contributed to the improvement of the status of Nikkeijin and the bilateral exchange between Japan and the Philippines through activities such as supporting the development of young generation of Nikkei-jin community, and organization of annual memorial service for the remembrance of Japanese settlers in Davao."
"In particular, she has greatly contributed to the investigation and interviews of Japanese descendants for the recognition of their Japanese nationality," the embassy said.
Mallari told ABS-CBN News that the award "provided essence" to what she has "been doing in the past decade or two, as a Filipino-Japanese who helps in building bridges between Japan and the Philippines, and in sharing the beautiful cultures and traditions, too."
"I am extremely grateful for and humbled by the recognition from the government of Japan. I shall cherish this award forever," she said.
"The award inspires me to continue helping my fellow Nikkeijins, especially those who are stateless, in their fight for recognition (by the Japanese government), and in serving as living bridge between our two beloved nations."
The embassy said the date of the actual conferment of the award will be decided in consultation with the recipients. The awardees will receive a diploma and insignia.
Gazmin said he is still awaiting word from the Japanese embassy as regards the conferment ceremony.
Mallari, for her part, said, "I desire to receive the award here in Davao, the place where I was raised and born, together with thousands of my fellow Nikkeijins."
The Order of the Rising Sun has been conferred on several Filipinos in the past, including former President Jose Laurel and several Philippine ambassadors to Japan, according to the government's Official Gazette.
The embassy said Japan's awarding of honors, including decorations and medals in an act performed by the Emperor with the advice and approval of the Cabinet, based on Article 7 of the Constitution of Japan.
"We hope that awardees continue to take active roles in further strengthening the close relations between Japan and the Philippines," the embassy said.
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