Duterte vowed to take "firm measure" on comfort women statue, Japanese official says
President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to take a "firm measure" on the construction of a statue depicting the "comfort women" in a major thoroughfare in Manila.
Katsuyuki Kawai, a lawmaker of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and former special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told reporters Wednesday night he raised Japan's regrets over the construction of the monument along Roxas Boulevard during his courtesy call with Duterte on in Malacanang.
He was the second Japanese official who expressed disappointment of the government over the statue with Duterte. Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication Seiko Noda, who paid a courtesy call on Duterte in Malacanang on January 9 first raised the issue.
Kawai refused to elaborate on the measure the Duterte administration would take regarding the statue.
In an interview on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano could not say what Duterte had promised to Kawai, saying he was not in the meeting.
"Unfortunately, I was not in that meeting. I wasn't yet briefed," he said.
Cayetano said he is still waiting for the result of the fact-finding by an interagency group regarding how the statue was built in a public place.
Asked if Japan has been asking the Philippines to remove the statue, he said, "No, the concern of Japan simply is that it won't only be a symbol of that (comfort women). But it will create animosity by Filipinos towards Japanese."
He noted that Japan, like Korea, are concerned about the safety of its citizens.
"It's more that their country would not like their citizens, will be like a target of hate. That's the concern of Japan," Cayetano said.
Asked if he shares the concern of Japan regarding the possible animosity that the statue could create, he said, "I share all concerns because it's my job to look at all of that."
"So there's no revisionism here. That was part of reparation. Japan has issued statements in the past and stick to those statements, including the apologies," Cayetano added.
Lila Pilipina, a group of former comfort women or sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II, and the advocates of their plight have accused the Abe government of revising the history.
They also refused to consider the fund previously given to comfort women in Asia as reparation from Japan since it was organized by private group.
They also do not consider as official apologies those given by former Japanese officials because they made such in their personal capacity.
Cayetano reiterated there is no problem if the statue was built in a private land or in a museum.
He declined to say what the government would do in case after investigation, it would be found that the necessary permits were not secured.
Duterte, in an interview with Mindanews, an online news website in Mindanao, has said he could "not stop the relatives or even the comfort women still living from their freedom to express what they are expressing through the statue.”
“That is a constitutional right which I cannot stop. It’s prohibitive for me to do that,” he told Mindanews. Celerina Monte/DMS