Philippines, Japan agree to further boost defense cooperation
The Philippines and Japan have agreed to further strengthen their defense cooperation.
This as visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono called on President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City on Saturday, February 9.
In a statement on Sunday, Malaca?ang said that Kono reiterated Japan's continuous support in the development of Mindanao.
The visiting Japanese official also welcomed the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and expressed sympathy to the victims of the twin blasts that rocked a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on January 27, leaving 22 people dead and over a hundred others wounded.
Duterte, during their meeting at Matina Enclaves, said he was honored that Kono is in his hometown.
Meanwhile, in a joint press conference after their bilateral meeting in Davao City on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he and Kono examined the two countries' cooperation in defense, maritime security, infrastructure development, human resource development, health, disaster risk reduction and management, and people-to-people exchanges.
“We reviewed our defense and security engagement, and pledged to persist in our efforts to open new doors for cooperation in this field - in terms of equipment, education and training, and other modalities,” said Locsin, adding that Japan vowed to stay as a steady partner in strengthening the country’s defense capabilities.
“This particular area of cooperation does not exist in a vacuum,” he added.
The Philippines and Japan are both engaged in separate territorial disputes with China - in South China Sea and in East China Sea, respectively.
Locsin said the Philippines recognized the imperative of further bilateral cooperation between the two maritime countries with unique similarities and as neighbors whose sea lanes of communication may be similarly affected by recent developments.
“We both recognize that the regional security environment is fraught with challenges, including in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
The two officials also discussed the Mindanao peace process and how to help the region's development.
Meanwhile, Kono met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in a hotel in Davao City on Sunday afternoon.
In a text message to Manila Shimbun, Murad said that Kono expressed "commitment to continue supporting the peace process, especially the normalization track and the programs of the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) once in place."
The MILF-led BTA will administer the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao until its first set of elected officials takes over by 2022.
Kono also attended the inauguration of the Japanese Consulate-General in Davao City. He is set to leave the country on Monday, February 11. Ella Dionisio, Celerina Monte/DMS