MANILA — The Philippine government's war reparation assets in Japan should not be sold as they hold "symbolic value" to the country, especially to war veterans who fought during the Japanese occupation, according to lawmakers of the Makabayan bloc Tuesday, as they made their case against attempts to dispose of the properties.
The progressive bloc made up of Bayan Muna Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat; ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro; Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas; and, Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago filed House Resolution 1342, opposing all moves to sell the following 4 government-owned properties in Japan due to their historical and symbolic value:
1) Roppongi property in Minato-ku, Tokyo
2) Nampeidai property in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
3) Naniwa-cho property in Chuo-ku, Kobe City
4) Obanoyama-cho property in Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe
The 4 properties in Japan were acquired by the Philippine government under the May 1956 Reparations Agreement with Tokyo, they stressed.
"Such properties carry significant historical and symbolic value to Filipinos and especially to war veterans who fought against the Japanese occupation and their atrocities," the lawmakers said in the resolution.
There had been repeated attempts to develop or sell the Roppongi property since the Marcos administration.
According to the Philippine Embassy in Japan, the Marcos government's attempt to develop the property was abandoned following the 1986 People Power revolution.
Inheriting "an economy in shambles and a bankrupt treasury, the Cory Aquino government tried selling the property but ended in a failure of bid," the Embassy said.
In the second bidding, the Supreme Court in 1990 would rule that the properties could not be sold or disposed of without the concurrence of Congress because they are "public dominion in character."
There have been recent push at the House of Representatives to sell the Japan properties "supposedly to generate funds for the payment of pensions and other benefits of Filipino war veterans."
"The national government can source adequate funds... without resorting to the sale of the historically-significant war reparation assets in Japan," said the Makabayan lawmakers.
Last September, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. expressed opposition to the same proposal of selling the properties, describing the "plot" as "a second Pearl Harbor perpetrated by Filipinos on our own patrimony."
Locsin said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has sent its position to Congress opposing the plan, as he vowed to "fight this to their end."
The Japanese occupation in the Philippines during World War II was marked with atrocities, among them was the enslavement of "comfort women," Japan's euphemism for Asian women who were forced to work in its wartime brothels.
Japanese officials have apologized to the women and provided funds to help them. But many of them say it was not an official apology and just compensation, which they are demanding from the Japanese government, along with historical inclusion of the Japanese military sexual slavery cases during World War II.
Japan occupied the Philippines from 1941 until 1945.
- with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News