04 June 2015

Philippines, Japan — defenders of regional peace, President Aquino tells Japanese Diet
(TOKYO, Japan) Strong Philippine-Japanese partnership would be a vital counterbalance against regional instability created by conflicting claims in the South China Sea, President Benigno S. Aquino III said here Wednesday.The current economic and people-to-people engagement between the two countries is a shining example of what can be achieved when peace and stability reign over the Asia-Pacific region, President Aquino said in his speech delivered before members of Japan’s National Diet.

“It is no wonder, then, that our two countries have become the most vocal defenders of that stability, which has recently come under threat,” he said.

The prosperity of maritime and coastal East and Southeast Asia, which relies greatly on the free movement of goods and peoples, could be disrupted by “attempts to redraw the geographic limits and entitlements outside those clearly bestowed by the law of nations,” he noted.

The President said the Philippines is following the Japanese Diet’s ongoing deliberations, particularly in view of “Japan taking a more proactive stance in fulfilling its responsibilities to the international community for the maintenance of peace.”

Both Japan and the Philippines, he said, constantly show willingness to dialogue, “bending over backwards to deescalate tensions despite repeatedly getting rebuffed, and still trying to resolve disagreements through peaceful means and internationally recognized norms.”

At the same time, Japan is one of only two countries in which the Philippines has a Strategic Partnership.

“We thus view our relationship as being at the forefront of ensuring freedom in our regional commons. Ours is a partnership that can only grow stronger, because it is based not on mere practicality, but on shared values and mutual respect among equals,” he told the members of the Diet.

“For both our nations, we know that harmony is a collective achievement, and not one that can be dictated through coercion. We steadfastly uphold that military might can never be the arbiter for the resolution of disagreements.”

The Diet is composed of the House of Councilors and the House of Representatives. Members of both houses are elected directly by the people.

The President’s speech at the Japanese Diet was part of his four-day state visit here. PND (as)

Filipino professionals still in high demand in Japan, says Japanese official
(TOKYO, Japan) Filipino talents and skills remain in high demand in Japan, especially those in the medical field, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda has said.President Benigno S. Aquino III, in Japan for a four-day state visit, met with Kuroda at the Imperial Hotel here on Wednesday.

According to Kuroda, doctors, nurses and caregivers are still in high demand for Japan’s aging population and Filipino professionals in this field could tap this opportunity.

He also lauded the impressive growth of the Philippine economy under the Aquino administration, and encouraged the government to accelerate infrastructure development in the country.

The central bank chief also observed that the Philippines’ infrastructure pipeline is robust and augmented by public-private partnership (PPP) projects.

Meanwhile, President Aquino welcomed Japan’s ongoing revitalization, recognizing that its economic successes are tied to that of the Philippines.

In his speech during the Joint Session of the National Diet of Japan, President Aquino said Japan is the only country that shares a bilateral free trade agreement with the Philippines.

He noted that Japan is the Philippines’ largest trading partner in 2014, with total trade amounting to US$19.1 billion.

The Philippines, he added, is currently the fastest growing market for Japanese tourism among the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), while Japan now ranks as the country’s third largest market for tourists.

“In light of the engagement between our economies, I am also encouraged by this honorable Diet according attention to legislation that would more effectively synergize Japan’s labor needs with my countrymen’s capabilities,” he said.

Philippine-Japanese cooperation is mutually beneficial, the President said, citing that some 70 percent of Japanese-owned and -controlled ships are manned by Filipino crewmen.

President Aquino has been holding a series of meetings with Japanese business executives since he arrived here on Tuesday. PND (as)

President Aquino, Emperor Akihito make a toast to deeper friendship between the Philippines and Japan
(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III and Emperor Akihito paid tribute to the “deep and abiding friendship” between the Philippines and Japan, during a state banquet hosted by the latter and his wife, Empress Michiko, in honor of the visiting leader at the Imperial Palace here on Wednesday evening.

In his remarks, President Aquino thanked the Imperial Family, the Japanese government and people for once again extending him their gracious hospitality in the course of his state visit here.

Both President Aquino and Emperor Akihito acknowledged that the deepening ties between their countries since the resumption of their diplomatic relations in 1956, has been mutually beneficial.

“Since the postwar resumption of diplomatic relations in 1956 until today, our two countries have worked hand in hand to develop our friendly relations,” Emperor Akihito said.

For his part, President Aquino stated that the Philippines has found a great ally in Japan, as the two countries have been actively supporting each other in various endeavors, especially in the economic front and during times of disasters.

“The pain and tragedy of the past have been healed by Japan’s commitment to a relationship based on mutual respect, dignity, and solidarity. For 59 years, our two nations have demonstrated that we can work together for our advancement and mutual benefit,” he said.

“In Japan and its people, we have found steadfast partners and friends in the truest sense of the word: from our economic interactions, to our shared commitment to peace and development in Mindanao; from our people-to-people exchanges, to the aid we have given each other during calamities, to our shared advocacy of peace and the rule of law,” the President added.

On a more personal note, both President Aquino and Emperor Akihito waxed nostalgic as they reminisced about the beautiful memories they had created while visiting each other’s country for the first time.

President Aquino said he would not forget the kindness of the Imperial Family, especially that of Emperor Akihito’s father, the late Emperor Showa, who reminded him to take care of his parents when they met during his mother, the late president Corazon Aquino’s first visit to Japan in 1986.

“I was struck by the simplicity and sincerity of his tone as he reminded me to take care of my mother—something that my own father had told me when I was 13 years old, in what we thought was the last time we would ever speak. On that occasion, the late Emperor Showa spoke a truism in telling me to care of my parents, but his warmth made me feel as if I were not a stranger,” he said.

Emperor Akihito likewise said he is grateful to President Aquino’s mother, whom he welcomed to Japan as a Crown Prince, as she was there to personally pay her respects during his father’s funeral in 1989 and when he acceded to the throne in 1990.

President Aquino said it is this kind of a ”cross-generational” friendship between their families, one that is not restricted to a single lifetime, which cultivates long-standing relationships between parties that are treasured and preserved.

“The relations between our two countries have blossomed into a deep and abiding friendship, and a strategic partnership that will serve our peoples well. I say this with full confidence, because ours is a relationship founded on shared values: the importance we give to democracy, the unflagging strength of Filipinos and the Japanese, and our dedication to uplifting the lives of all our peoples, under the auspices of ‘achieving peace everywhere’,” the President said. PND (hdc)

President Aquino thanks Emperor Akihito for honoring long friendship between the Philippines and Japan
(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III said he sees stronger relations between the Philippines and Japan as a result of a commitment based on mutual respect, dignity, and solidarity.

“For 59 years, our two nations have demonstrated that we can work together for our advancement and mutual benefit,” the President said here Wednesday evening during a banquet hosted by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in his honor.

“Tonight, I am here in Tokyo as the leader of the Filipino nation, proud friends and partners of the Japanese people — the representative of a nation that has rediscovered its optimism and confidence.”

Mentioning the significant gains the Philippines has made under his watch, President Aquino said the success that the country has been enjoying is anchored on an unrelenting commitment to good governance and the backing of the Filipino people, who value integrity and honesty, knowing that true public service is the path towards realizing their aspirations.

These gains also became possible, owing to the support of the country’s international partners, he said.

Japan, he noted, is a major partner in this endeavor — from the Philippines’ economic interactions, to the two countries’ commitment to peace and development in Mindanao; from people-to-people exchanges to aid during calamities, and the shared advocacy of peace and the rule of law.

“Your Majesties, in the Philippines, friendships are not restricted to a single lifetime: they are cross-generational, in which long-standing relationships between parties are treasured and preserved,” he said.

He said the two countries’ relations have blossomed into a deep and abiding friendship, and a strategic partnership that will serve their peoples well.

“I say this with full confidence, because ours is a relationship founded on shared values: the importance we give to democracy, the unflagging strength of Filipinos and the Japanese, and our dedication to uplifting the lives of all our peoples, under the auspices of ‘achieving peace everywhere’,” he said.

The President expressed his deep appreciation for the Japanese emperor’s kindness and thanked him for honoring the lasting friendship that the two countries have maintained. PND (as)

President Aquino meets with Japanese political leader
(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III discussed several issues with leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, Katsuya Okada, when they met at the Imperial Hotel here on Wednesday.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., who was with the President during the meeting, said the President thanked the party for Japan’s support for the Philippines’ position on the South China Sea issue during the incumbency of former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

According to Secretary Coloma, Okada recalled that when he was Japan’s foreign minister, he and then United States State Secretary Hillary Clinton raised the issue of freedom of navigation in the Asian regional forum.

He said both leaders noted that the European Union and other countries have expressed their support for a peaceful resolution of the conflict and the maintenance of freedom of navigation.

They also recognized the need to expand trade and investment ties between the two countries.

In another meeting, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda applauded the impressive growth of the Philippine economy under the Aquino administration.

Kuroda, who is former chief of the Asian Development Bank, also encouraged the Philippines to accelerate infrastructure development.

At the same time, Kuroda said Filipino workers are still in high demand in Japan, especially those in the medical field, as they are needed to care for Japan’s aging population. PND (as)

President Aquino: Continuity of government reforms is up to Filipino public
(TOKYO, Japan) Sustaining the government’s reform initiatives rests exclusively in the hands of the Filipino people, President Benigno S. Aquino III has said, eschewing the prodding of some sectors for him to seek another public office to continue what he started, after his term ends next year.

President Aquino has already said he would neither consider re-election nor run for a local position come the 2016 national elections and that he is keeping this mindset at this point.

In his speech before members of the Filipino community in Japan during a get-together here last Tuesday, the President said there had been suggestions from some quarters that he extend his term as president to ensure the continuance of his reform program.

“Nang naging malinaw po sa kanilang hindi ako sang-ayon na baguhin ang Saligang Batas para pahabain ang termino ko, ang naging bagong version po ng tanong ay ganito po: Baka raw po gusto kong tumakbo sa ibang puwesto?” he said.

“Kaya ang tama po yatang pananaw at akin pong mungkahi: ‘Di ho ba kayo ang gumawa nito; kayo ang nagdala ng pagbabago, at kayo ang magpapatuloy nito. Marami na po talaga tayong narating, pero marami pa rin tayong kailangang gawin.”

The President conveyed that he leaves it to the Filipino voters to make the right decision in finding the best person who will steer the country forward.

“Kayo ang gumawa ng pagbabago, at kayo ang magpapatuloy nito. Nasa inyo ang pagpili ng tapat at matuwid na pinuno, na talaga namang gagamitin itong tinatamasa nating mas mataas na estado, upang lalo pang paangatin ang Pilipinas tungo sa katuparan ng ating mga pangarap,” he said.

“Kung may darating na papalit sa atin para apihin lang tayo, parang nag-U-turn nga lang po tayo sa dati, at palagay ko po, sino ho kaya sa atin ang papayag na magkaroon ng ganoong sitwasyon. Ididiin ko lang po: ‘Yung kinabukasang dadatnan natin, kayo pa rin—tayo pa rin—at tayo pa rin ang gagawa, at tayo ang magpapanatili, gaya ng paggawa ninyo sa pagbabagong tinatamasa natin ngayon,” President Aquino said.

He reiterated the same during a forum at the special session of Nikkei’s 21st International Conference on the Future of Asia when he was asked to give an assurance that his policies would continue, even under the next administration.

“Our campaign next year will center on continuity; and our people will be asked: Do you want to go back to where it was or do you want to stay where we are now and perhaps, even accelerate? And I don’t think anybody, except for a very few who benefited from the old system, will want to return to the old system,” he explained.

“So, at the end of the day, the people made it possible for me and our Cabinet and our government to effect these changes in their lives. They will also continue the changes that we have been starting,” he added. PND (hdc)

Japanese companies express intention to expand businesses in the Philippines
(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III here Thursday witnessed the signing of letters of intent between the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and several Japanese companies that plan to invest or expand their businesses in the Philippines.

These Japanese companies are engaged in manufacturing office equipments, electronics, ships, and medical devices.

One of these companies is Bemac Uzushio Electric Co. Ltd, the first company to set up production of electric tricycles in the country. Its P300-million facility produces 1,000 units each year.

Bemac Uzushio is planning to develop, manufacture and sell four-wheeled electric vehicles by middle of next year for an investment of P100 million. The company wants the Philippines to be its electric vehicle manufacturing hub.

Brothers Industries Ltd also signed a letter of intent with PEZA for the manufacture of printer-related products and components. It plans to invest P5.8 billion over five years and eyes the employment of 5,500 Filipino workers.

Canon Inc. meanwhile plans to manufacture a new product with an average export sales volume of 1.3 million pieces, valued at US$133 million per year. Canon has 3,000 workers in the Philippines.

Another Japanese company that has shown interest in expanding its Philippine operations is Funai Electric Co. Ltd., which manufactures printers and digital media products. It plans to expand its operations in Lipa City, Batangas with an investment of US$30 million.

Seiko Epson Corp. is also planning to increase its operations in the Philippines by building a new facility worth US$160.6 million in Batangas in 2017. Seiko Epson eyes the production of inkjet printers, and projector smart glasses with its new investment, and grow its total labor pool in the country to as much as 20,000.

Arkray Inc. also signified its intention to invest P300 million in the Philippines by 2016 and P100 million by 2018. Arkray is engaged in in-vitro diagnostics, and in the research, development, manufacture, service and distribution of in-vitro diagnostic products.

Biotech Japan Corp. meanwhile has decided to invest P150 million in a food production facility next year. The government said it hopes the new investment would benefit Filipino farmers, dietitians and nutritionists through the transfer of technology.

Japan’s JMS intends to invest US$38.5 million in a factory that will manufacture and sell medical devices for infusions and transfusion therapy and hemodialysis treatment in 2016. The project will augment JMS’ export of US$26 million and the company expects to hire 500 workers over a five-year period starting this year.

Terumo, a Japanese company engaged in manufacturing medical devices, is planning to enhance its production facility in the country, focusing more on producing high-performance product lines.

Tokai Medical Products has already started the construction of its 400-million-yen facility in the Philippines in the first quarter of this year. The new facility is seen to become a global platform for manufacturing aortic catheters and intra-aortic occlusion catheters for heart patients, intended for the Japan and US markets. The company is also interested in promoting research and development programs that will help pediatric cardiac medicine.

Tsuneishi Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. meanwhile has expressed its intention to expand its facility in the Philippines to make it the company’s ASEAN mother shipyard and shipbuilding hub in Asia.

Tsuneishi has invested more than US$600 million and has employed 13,000 people since it began operations in 1994.

Among those who joined the President during the occasion were Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and PEZA Director General Lilia de Lima. PND (as)

President Aquino invites Japanese businessmen to invest in the Philippines
(TOKYO, Japan) President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday encouraged members of various Japanese trade organizations to look at the Philippines as an investment destination, given its improved business climate.

Speaking at the Philippine Investment Forum held at the New Otani Hotel here, the President said there is no better time for businessmen to set up shop in the country than today, considering the significant strides his administration has taken in the economic front.

President Aquino said many opportunities await Japanese investors in the Philippines, especially in the area of infrastructure where 28 projects are currently in the pipeline for development under public-private partnerships (PPP).

This is on top of the nine solicited projects that have already been awarded, with another one expected to be awarded very soon, and 15 other projects that by now are in various stages of procurement and roll-out, he said.

“The Philippines as an investment destination is more attractive today than at any other point in our history. We can further deepen, or forge partnerships in which all parties benefit. Our government’s track record speaks for itself, as well as our sustained commitment to moving this forward,” he said.

President Aquino further said that aside from the PPP, his administration is also working toward enhancing the infrastructure budget, with the goal of making it at least five percent of the country’s gross domestic product by next year.

“We have also focused on enhancing critical transport infrastructure like ports and airports. We have completed the construction of a major airport (i.e., Laguindingan), and are undertaking the construction of two more,” he said.

This is on top of 43 other infrastructure projects across the country that are undergoing significant rehabilitation and improvement, he said, adding that seven out of 18 tourism ports have been developed.

In terms of developments in the energy sector, President Aquino mentioned that his administration is hard at work to ensure a consistent, diversified, and reasonably priced power supply across the country.

Apart from the 30 new power projects that have already gone online under his watch, he said 48 more projects are set to go online between now and 2020, which will augment the country’s total dependable capacity to about 15,665 megawatts.

“The improvement of sectors like power and infrastructure has indeed redounded to the Philippines’ increased competitiveness. At the same time, we continue to believe that the most important sector—the most important resource—we can invest in is the Filipino people,” the President said.

Noting that while the Philippines is known as a force to be reckoned with in the information technology/business process management sector, which yields at least US$18 billion in revenues, he expressed hope that investors would also tap into the other skills of his countrymen.

President Aquino said Filipinos are quickly demonstrating their ability to excel in more specialized areas, particularly in legal transcription, accounting, engineering services, and animation, an industry that Japan helped popularize around the world.

“Game development is another area we are looking to develop—and I am certain that Japanese creativity, innovation, and technological prowess can help us to maximize this sector,” he added.

President Aquino also vowed to further empower his hardworking countrymen through Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), in which significant strides have also been made in terms of improving their access to credit, learning programs, and facilities that can assist them in improving the quality of their products.

“Our Department of Trade and Industry has also been conducting seminars on Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA), which will help MSMEs maximize the opportunities that come with greater economic integration,” he said.

The President cited the country’s first Fabrication Laboratory Shared Services Facility (FabLab SSF), which was made possible through the generous assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

He said this facility will directly benefit 135 MSMEs in Bohol by providing them access to technology, such as laser cutters and 3D printers, which could help the enterprises improve their efficiency and productivity, and enhance the quality of their products.

“Even better: the FabLab will benefit from the continued guidance and mentorship of the prestigious Keio University in Japan,” the President added.

Inspired and driven by the Japanese people’s ‘kaizen’ philosophy, which literally means “continuous improvement” or “change for the better,” President Aquino said his administration is determined to reach its goal of turning the Philippines into a strong and competitive player in the global economy.

The President thanked Japan for being one of the Philippines’ consistent trade partners, regardless of the global economic situation.

Japan has consistently been among the top sources of approved investments in the Philippines and is also its largest trading partner in 2014, with total trade amounting to US$19.1 billion.

“Those of you who have already established a corporate presence in the Philippines can attest to the caliber of the Filipino worker—to the fact that kaizen seems to be inherent to my countrymen, and that they will do everything in their power to ensure that you succeed,” the President told investors.

“They are the reason that we are all gathered here today; the millions of Filipinos back home are the silent partners I represent in inviting you to consider the Philippines.

“Together, let us explore new ways to spur each other’s success and to improve our collective fortunes—contributing to the growth of your businesses, the development of our country, and the realization of a brighter future for the Filipino people,” he said. PND (hdc)

Government to Japanese investors: There are enough local funds to finance infrastructure development
The Philippine government has assured Japanese companies planning to invest in the country’s infrastructure projects that there are enough funds to support such developments.

During an investment forum here Thursday, President Benigno S. Aquino III was asked about financing, once Japanese companies consider building infrastructure projects in the Philippines.

In response, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the Philippines has achieved macroeconomic stability as a result of the President’s good governance initiative.

The country’s central bank has also contributed to this stability, owing to its efficient management, Secretary Purisima said.

“We have also been able to increase the capacity of the local banking system. As a result, the single borrower’s limit of banks was temporarily extended and at the same time with their increasing sizes, we were able to accommodate more infrastructure projects,” he told Japanese businessmen at the forum, held at the Hotel New Otani here.

“Nevertheless the president has also decided to open up more bridges to investment from abroad,” he added.

The government has also liberalized the banking system, he said, noting that it has so far approved the entry of four foreign banks — the first being the Sumitomo Bank of Japan and three others from South Korea and Taiwan.

The entry of these foreign banks should offer additional financing access for infrastructure projects, Purisima said, adding that the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has linked up with a foreign fund to engage in infrastructure financing.

“So far, we have not seen any issues in terms of funds,” he said.

As the government launches more public-private partnership (PPP) projects, Purisima said it is also looking into the possibility of issuing infrastructure and insurance bonds for the purpose of infrastructure development.

In case of currency mismatch between company financing and revenue flow for local infrastructure, he said there are locally available facilities, including those from the government, which can be utilized to address the concern. PND (as)

Palace says draft Bangsamoro Law is not as bad as described by Senator Marcos
The Palace on Thursday came to the defense of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying it is not as bad as how Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. has described it.“The BBL is not bad as how Senator Bongbong Marcos described it – that ‘it will lead to a road to perdition.’ We strongly disagree with that. In fact, it is a bill that will lead to a genuine and peaceful solution to the situation in Mindanao,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

Lacierda said he believes that the BBL would be able to stand scrutiny, as it was drafted in consultation with the stakeholders and has been reviewed thoroughly.

“We have gone through a protracted negotiation with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front); and the negotiations on the Bangsamoro Framework, the FAB, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was the basis for the draft BBL, were also made with the foundations of the agreements previously made with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front). This is a series of frank exchanges between all the stakeholders concerned in Mindanao,” he explained.

“To just substitute it in a mere several discussions before the Senate, without looking into the entire process that we went through, may perhaps be not as productive as what we would have done so because it was really a product of honest exchange between all the parties concerned,” he said.

Lacierda was commenting on reports that Senator Marcos will write and file a substitute bill that is different from the original version.

The senator has said in a privilege speech delivered on Wednesday that the BBL “in its present form and substance will not bring us any closer to peace. Instead, it will lead us to perdition.”

“We certainly hope na matuloy pa rin ang pagpasa ng BBL bago ang State of the Nation Address ng Pangulong Aquino dahil ito ay isang mahalagang elemento doon sa pag-transition sa bagong Bangsamoro juridical entity,” said Lacierda.

“So, whatever reservations Senator Bongbong Marcos may have, we hope that it will be resolved as soon as possible.” PND (ag)