THE bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo R. Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on May 31 will include a discussion on “peace and stability” in the disputed South China Sea, according to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Meynardo LB. Montealegre.
In a press briefing at the Palace on Friday, Mr. Montealegre said the seventh meeting between Messrs. Duterte and Abe, at the sidelines of the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia, is an “opportunity for both leaders to take stock of the progress of the strengthened strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan.”
He said the two leaders are expected to discuss both countries’ partnership in the areas of “defense and security, economic cooperation, infrastructure development, the entry of Filipino skilled workers to Japan, and Japanese assistance for the development of the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.”
There will also be “exchange of views on regional issues of mutual concern, including the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.”
Asked what issues will be raised by the President regarding the South China Sea, he said: “Well, the peace and stability in the region is a mutual concern to both the Philippines and Japan. And the South China Sea is central in this regard.”
“The Philippines, for its part, has always affirmed its commitment to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and overflight, freedom of commerce and other lawful activities, exercise of self-restraint and the peaceful resolution of disputes,” he added.
Mr. Duterte’s address at the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia on May 31 will likely highlight his assertion on Asia’s independence in directing its own future, said Mr. Montealegre.
“The President will likely assert Asia’s role in charting its own future even as we affirmed the larger international frameworks and mechanisms that have given birth through the Asian century we now enjoy,” Mr. Montealegre said.
He added: “He will likely also highlight how addressing… domestic imperatives provides the conditions by which we will collectively shape Asia’s future.”
Mr. Montealegre said Mr. Duterte’s participation in this year’s conference is upon the invitation of the newspaper and media group Nikkei, Inc.
This will be Mr. Duterte’s third visit to Japan since he assumed office in 2016.
“The Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia is an annual meeting held in Tokyo. This conference gathers government and business leaders to share their respective assessment of Asia’s prospects and their ideas as to the direction Asia should chart for itself. With its solid track record of featuring Asian leaders and speakers, the conference has earned a reputation of being one of Asia’s top foreign policy in economic fora,” Mr. Montealegre said.
The theme of this year’s two-day conference is “Seeking a New Global Order — Overcoming the Chaos.” Mr. Duterte is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on May 31.
Mr. Montealegre said other Asian leaders who are expected to address the conference are Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, Prime Minister Sheik Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, and Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of the Laos.
He added that the deputy prime ministers of Vietnam and Singapore will also be attending the conference, along with ministers from Japan, Brunei, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia.
Whether the President will meet the Filipino community in Japan,Mr. Montealegre said: “There are preparations for the possible meeting with the Filipino community. Details of which are being finalized…. It’s being arranged.”
He said that no government-to-government deals are expected to be signed aside from the business-to-business agreements that are being arranged by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). — Arjay L. Balinbin