PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday said his five-day visit to Japan would cement Philippine ties with major Asia-Pacific countries amid regional challenges.
“My bilateral visit to Japan is essential and is part of a larger foreign policy agenda to forge closer political ties, stronger defense and security cooperation, as well as lasting economic partnerships with major countries in the region amid a challenging global environment,” he said in a departure speech.
During his working visit on Feb. 8 to 12, Mr. Marcos Jr. will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Emperor Naruhito.
He said his meeting with Mr. Kishida aims to “take stock of our bilateral relations and regional cooperation in a broad range of engagements,” from security commitments to economic relations.
They are expected to sign key agreements covering infrastructure, defense, humanitarian assistance and tourism.
On Tuesday, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Mylene Garcia-Albano said the country is expected to get P150 billion in investment pledges during the president’s trip to Japan, which is the Philippines’ second-largest trading partner.
Mr. Marcos will meet with executives from electronics, semiconductor, printer and wiring harness manufacturing companies, she said.
The working visit gives the Philippines a chance to further boost its exports to Japan, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Nathaniel Imperial said on Feb. 1.
While in Japan, Mr. Marcos said his team would work to strengthen “the bonds of friendship with a close neighbor, like-minded and future-oriented like us in many ways, and a most reliable partner in times of both crises and prosperity.”
Japan, a key ally of the United States, has rejected China’s attempts to limit freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which is subject to overlapping claims from the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The Japanese government in December committed to double its defense budget to 2% from of its gross domestic product, citing China’s aggression and North Korea’s unpredictability.
Mr. Marcos told the World Economic Forum in Switzerland last month he would not follow suit, saying “there is no point in the Philippines building up its armory.”
“First, we are not in an economic situation that we are able to build up to the levels that the Americans had, to the levels that the Chinese have,” he said at the time. “More importantly, perhaps, is our abiding belief that the solutions are not going to be military.”
Mr. Marcos said he would be joined by his economic team and key private sector representatives at meetings with Japan’s business leaders.
Japan is the only country with which the Philippines has a bilateral free trade agreement — the Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.
It is the biggest bilateral source of active official development assistance.
Mr. Marcos was joined by his wife First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and key administration allies including Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Also part of his delegation are at least six Cabinet secretaries including Benjamin E. Diokno of the Finance department, Alfredo E. Pascual of the Trade department, Rafael P.M. Lotilla of the Energy department, Esperanza Christina Codilla-Frasco of the Tourism department and Enrique A. Manalo of the Foreign Affairs department.
Cabinet officials and undersecretaries including Special Assistant to the President Antonio Ernesto F. Lagdameo, Jr. also joined him.
Mr. Imperial earlier said about 150 people had signed up for he Philippine business delegation.
Mr. Marcos, 65, has confirmed his attendance to the Asia Pacific Economic Forum in the United States in November. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza