Abe's visit to Philippines: What it means


Posted at Jan 11 2017 08:29 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2017 01:21 PM

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making a historic 2-day visit to the Philippines on January 12-13. 

ANC resident analyst Richard Heydarian said Wednesday, Abe's visit signifies a continuation of good relations between the two countries, even though Japan was not President Rodrigo Duterte's first state visit outside ASEAN as was originally planned.

"For the head of the government of the third-largest economy in the world, a pillar of the western alliance, that in itself has huge symbolic value," he said on [email protected]

"The very fact that Shinzo Abe wants to build on the rapport by visiting probably even Duterte's house...there's a lot of personal diplomacy also happening here," he said.

Abe is visiting Duterte's hometown of Davao City on Friday. 

Heydarian noted that with the visit, it is apparent that despite the huge difference in the personality between Duterte and his predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, Abe wants to make sure that his personal chemistry with the Philippine head of state will continue.

Heydarian said, this visit may also prove that Japan is the Philippines' "real best friend," as data would show that Japan is the "most important country for us, without a question."

He added, when Abe comes to the Philippines, the $19-billion pledge from Japan may be discussed further. 

Conversely, Heydarian also argued that the visit is beneficial to Japan, especially amid the Philippines' apparent shift away from a traditional powerhouse such as the US towards alternative powers such as China and Russia.

"I think Japan feels this sense of urgency that they have to make sure this lurch towards alternative powers away from the US will not go too far and not too fast," he said.

"At best, what they want to achieve is at least to slow down that process and make sure that the Philippines will end up with the very balanced relationship," he added.