MANILA — The relationship between the Philippines and Japan has reached the point of a "golden age," with cooperation between the two nations continuing to deepen in recent years, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday.
In his address to Congress during a special joint session, Kishida said Manila and Tokyo have strengthened their ties "at all levels."
Kishida cited his government's support to Mindanao's peace process in the past 20 years, official development assistance to various projects, and funding for Metro Manila's subway system.
"The relationship between Japan and the Philippines has made great strides over the past half century. I believe that the people-to-people connection is a bedrock to this relationship," the Prime Minister said.
"Japan is one of the largest investors in the Philippines on a private sector basis. Public-private partnerships and investment companies that contribute to carbonization are also underway," he said.
"The public and private sectors are evenly working together to support the economic growth of the Philippines."
Japan is keen on following through with the investment deals and cooperation to strengthen the economy through the private sector, he said.
In February, his government announced a ¥600 billion or P224 billion public-private assistance that would run through March 2024 to "support economic and social development."
Kishida said this was in line with the Marcos administration's "Build Better More" project.
SECURITY AND DEFENSE
The Japanese Prime Minister also touted their efforts to boost the country's defense capabilities, thereby contributing to regional peace and stability.
Among these, he said, was his government's provision of 12 ships to the Philippine Coast Guard, a warning and control radar to the Philippine Air Force, and coastal surveillance radars to the Philippine Navy.
On Friday during his meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., Kishida also mentioned the beginning of the negotiations on the Japan-Philippines reciprocal access agreement (RAA).
Partnerships like these pave the way for Filipino and foreign soldiers to train together, as well as share military equipment and assets.
"Japan will continue to contribute to the enhancement of the Philippines’ security capabilities, thereby contributing to regional peace and stability," said Kishida.
"Japan intends to further deepen strategic cooperation with the Philippines in the future," he said.
These efforts aim to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific region, he said, since the international order, anchored on rules-based law, "is under serious threat."
In order to keep this order and "enhance cooperation," he stressed the importance of the trilateral cooperation between Manila, Tokyo, and Washington — particularly to face issues on the South China Sea.
"Multilayered cooperation among allies and like-minded countries is crucial," he said.
"The trilateral cooperation to protect the freedom of the sea is underway... Through these efforts, let us protect the maritime order, which is governed by laws and rules, not by force," he said.
Japan and the Philippines have been seeking to boost trilateral defense cooperation with the United States in response to China's construction of artificial islands with military infrastructure in nearby waters and frequent intrusions into the territorial seas of others.
Tokyo has dismissed Beijing's claim over the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, while Manila has long been at odds with the communist country over its claims of sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea.
Kishida hoped this "golden friendship" would continue in the next generations.
"Today, Japan-Philippines relations have reached the point of being called a 'golden age,'" according to the Japanese official.
"I will continue to do my utmost to ensure that the strong friendship between Japan and the Philippines will last and further develop in the future," he said.
Kishida is in the Philippines for a two-day official visit until today. On Friday, he held a bilateral meeting with Marcos, Jr.
Later in the day, he is expected to visit the site of the Metro Manila subway and visit the Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in Manila.
Video from House of Representatives