MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday expressed gratitude to Japan for being a good host country to overseas Filipinos, as well as for supporting the peace and development process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
In a courtesy call on the members of the Japanese parliament in Tokyo, Marcos thanked the Japanese government for giving Filipinos residing and living in Japan "a very good life."
"Our countrymen are unanimous in their expressions of their own gratitude for how they have been accepted into the workforce, of the Japanese workforce and into the society — of the fabric of Japanese society," Marcos told the members of the Japanese parliament.
To date, there are around 300,000 members of the Filipino community in Japan, according to government figures.
Marcos also emphasized the importance of the Japanese government's support to sustain peace and order in BARMM.
He hailed the "countless" assistance given to the Philippines by Japan, including the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-Bird) program which provides long-term support for governance, decommissioning and socio-economic development.
Launched in 2006, the J-Bird was designed to contribute to the peace process and development in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao and the surrounding areas in BARMM.
Marcos likewise acknowledged that the Japanese government has long been supportive of the peace process through various mechanisms, particularly the International Monitoring Team (IMT), the International Contact Group (ICG) and the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP).
"It has been a critical part of our peace process. It is a process that we have been undertaking for many, many years and I think and finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, the participation of the Japanese support in that peace process has been invaluable," President Marcos said.
Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) for Mindanao’s peace and development has reached 51 billion Japanese yen from 2002 to 2019.
In January this year, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reaffirmed its support to the peace and development process in the Bangsamoro region.
JICA is the executive agency of Japan's ODA which handles technical cooperation, loans and investment and grant aid, as well as cooperation volunteers and disaster relief programs.
Marcos invited members of the Japanese parliament to visit the Philippines to see the results of the Japanese government's assistance to the Filipino people.
"Look at the effects of this support that you have been giving us, not only in Southern Philippines but all the many, especially infrastructure projects that Japan has supported over the years," he said.
Joining Marcos in the meeting with the Japan-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship League (JPPFL) were former president and now House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr., and Senator Mark Villar.
Meantime, JPPFL participants were members of the Japanese House of Representatives led by Chairman Moriyama Hiroshi and Vice Chairmen Okuno Shinsuke, Takemi Keizo and Nakagawa Masaharu.
Accompanied by the top Philippine government officials and business leaders, Marcos is currently on a five-day official visit to Japan.
Disaster response cooperation
Meanwhile, Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge, Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. presented the Terms of Reference (TOR) concerning humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) activities at the exchange ceremony during Marcos' state visit to Japan.
"The said TOR facilitates the conduct of HADR activities between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and JSDF, where both armed forces could learn and exchange best practices on search, retrieval and rescue operations, and disaster response in the aftermath of natural and manmade disasters," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.
Both the Philippines and Japan are situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, with earthquakes and typhoons affecting the two countries annually.
Galvez, who is also the incumbent Secretary of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, also met with Minister of State for Disaster Management and Ocean Policy Tani Kouichi from the Cabinet Office.
"The OIC of the DND expressed appreciation to Japan for its continued provision of technical assistance to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) under the implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Capacity Enhancement Project Phase II (DRRM-CEPII) through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Both personnel from OCD and local government units (LGUs) have benefitted from the training provided through the said project," Andolong said.
During the meeting, briefings were provided by the Japanese side on its disaster response and prevention policies.
Galvez is also scheduled to meet with Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu on Friday. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)