Japan's Abe in Philippines for the 4th time

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 12 2017 02:16 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte walks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) and protocol officer Marciano Paynor after a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace grounds in Manila, Philippines January 12, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

MANILA - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday arrived in the Philippines to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders' Summit in the capital.

Abe first visited the Philippines in 2013 and attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in 2015. Last January, he came for a 2-day official visit, which took him to President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown in Davao City.

While Duterte has pivoted away from the United States, he has sought closer relations with Japan -- the Philippines' largest source of official development assistance and top trading partner.

"Japan has really been our biggest helper," Duterte said on a visit to Tokyo last October when he met Abe.

Japan and the Philippines are known to have one of the closest partnerships in the region, with Tokyo helping Manila build its first ever subway system and supporting the peace process with Muslim rebels.

With an under-equipped military and coast guard, the Philippines has also looked to Japan to boost maritime security as the two nations face separate sea disputes with China.

Japan and China are locked in a long-running row over uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, while Manila and Beijing have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Japan last year gave the Philippines two large patrol vessels and said it would lease training aircraft, on top of 10 coast guard ships that Tokyo pledged to Duterte's predecessor, Benigno Aquino.

Japan was also the Philippines' top trading partner in 2015, with $18 billion in trade, according to official figures.

With Agence France-Presse