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Japan trip aimed at forging stronger ties, expressing solidarity, says President Aquino

MANILA, Philippines (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III said he will visit Japan late this month to strengthen relationships, discuss nuclear issues as well as things that interest both countries particularly the West Philippine Sea.

The President, who leaves for an official visit to Japan on Sept. 24, told Japanese media on Friday in Malacanang that he wanted to thank Japan for its continuing assistance to the Philippines. The President will return to Manila on Sept. 29.

“Japan has been very good to us… contributing the largest source of official development assistance. Japan has undergone a tremendous shock with both earthquake and tsunami and of course the continuing issue on radio activity,” the President said in an interview with the Japanese press.

“We would want to express solidarity with the Japanese people because in our culture there’s a phrase in Filipino called utang na loob (debt of gratitude)”

Japan has a new leader described by the President as “a good prime minister” and he said he wanted to meet him to be able to continue the strong relationship between the two countries that have been allies for quite a long time.

“We are honored… and I understand that I’m the second head of state who will be talking to him. We want to appraise him on the things happening in the Philippines …and for him appraise us also on things happening in Japan,” he said.

In terms of being trading partners, Japan is in the top three trade partners of the Philippines, and any downturn in the economy of Japan would have a corresponding effect on the Philippines, the President said.

Asked if he’ll seize the opportunity to ensure employments of Filipinos in Japan as its economy expands, he said: “The sooner you recover redounds the benefit to the entire world, and our people has demonstrated time and again given the proper environment they can really excel in whichever company that does hire them.”

The President noted that in his last visit to the Filipino community in Japan, he found that more and more Filipinos are no longer in the entertainment sector but already in the professional sector.

The chief executive also mentioned the West Philippine Sea as an area of mutual interests for Japan and the Philippines. He said he will be raising the idea of unhampered trade and the freedom of navigation in this particular area so complimentary efforts could be done to ensure the safety of trade.

Another major agenda will be discussions on the use of nuclear energy because of the ongoing debates in the Philippines on the use of nuclear power.

“Their experiences undoubtedly will help us, will guide us on whether or not to do the same,” the President said noting the nuclear disaster Japan experienced recently.

The President also told the Japanese media that the Philippines is arranging another package of assistance for Japan after it sent food and clean water right after the disasters. There is a substantial amount allocated by the Philippine government to assist Japan, the President said.

Aside from the help already extended by the Philippines, President Aquino said the country also dispatched a medical team of psychiatrists and psychologists to assist those suffering from emotional distress after the disasters. “To our mind it’s a significant expression of solidarity for the Japanese people,” he said.