MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida affirmed Wednesday their countries' strong relations, with the former calling Tokyo as "unrivaled among our bilateral partners".
The two leaders spoke over the phone, according to a statement from Malacanang, during which Duterte congratulated the Japanese government for the success of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games.
Duterte also expressed his gratitude to Japan for its continued support for the country's Build, Build, Build program, the peace process and the ongoing transition process of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, as well as its assistance in the Philippines' COVID-19 pandemic response.
Japan is "indeed a friend closer than a brother", said Duterte, who also recalled Kishida's visit in Davao in August 2016 when the latter was still foreign minister. Kishida was the first foreign minister received by Duterte after becoming President that year.
For his part, Kishida said Japan-Philippines relations have reached its golden age under the Duterte administration, the Malacanang statement said.
He said the Japanese government will continue supporting the Philippines' peace and development agenda in Mindanao, its Build, Build, Build program, and its pandemic response.
Kishida also expressed Japan's readiness to further strengthen the partnership of the two countries in maritime security.
Japan has joined other nations in criticizing China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Aside from celebrating 65 years of normalized diplomatic relations, the Philippines and Japan are also celebrating 10 years of strengthened strategic partnership this year.