Remarks by H.E. Foreign Minister Taro Aso
on the Occasion of Friendship Day
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Normalization of Diplomatic Relations
Between Japan and the Philippines
23 July 2006 (Manila)
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat! (Good afternoon to you all!)
On this day 50 years ago, Japan and the Philippines renewed their bonds.
It is my greatest pleasure to speak before you today on this historic day of friendship between our two nations.
Since becoming Japan's Foreign Minister nine months ago, I have given many speeches - some on Japan's Asian policies and others on global diplomacy - in and out of Japan.
But I have never felt as honoured as I feel now, standing before you here in Manila.
I feel solemn as we, the Japanese and the Filipinos, look back together on the past and together envision the road ahead.
After all, it was in this country that the history of the 20th century played out one of its most tragic chapters, with my country as your main adversary.
Nonetheless, it was also here that Japan's post-war initiatives were warmly received, her past forgiven, if not forgotten.
Therefore, on this occasion commemorating the 50th anniversary of the normalization of our bilateral ties, I would like to express - on behalf of the people of Japan - our heartfelt gratitude for the Filipino people for your generosity, noble spirit of reconciliation, and sense of fairness.
You appreciate present-day Japan as a nation that values democracy, freedom, and respect for basic human rights.
You take a future-oriented attitude toward the relations between our two nations.
I have some good news to share with you, one that I have already conveyed to Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo during our bilateral meetings earlier today.
I wish to announce that Japan wants to engage even more actively in the Mindanao peace process, and that Japan has decided to participate in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) by sending an official who will play a leading role in the economic and social development area.
The Filipino people have endured many hardships caused by a prolonged conflict.
We, the Japanese, are determined to work hand in hand with you to achieve a peace settlement that is acceptable to all stakeholders in Mindanao.
Japan realizes that peace and stability in Mindanao is crucial to maintaining regional stability in Southeast Asia.
We share the optimism that the conclusion of the peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is at hand.
The optimism would definitely reinforce our common efforts to bring about stability and development in this part of Asia.
In looking back to the past, it was in the Philippines that Japan's post-war commitment to Asia's "peace and happiness through economic prosperity and democracy" started.
The blueprint for Japan's Asian policies - that Japan should forever tie itself with its Asian neighbours in heart-to-heart relations - was first delivered in a speech by the then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda here in Manila in the late 1970s.
This could have taken place only in the Philippines, because this country is one of the oldest democracies in Asia, and shares the same values as Japan.
Likewise, as allies with the United States, our two nations share the same strategic interests.
The spirit of heart-to-heart cooperation between Japan and the Philippines is very much alive today. For instance, more than 60 Japanese young men and women presently working here as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, the Japanese version of the American Peace Corps.
By nature, the cooperation is a two-way street.
The JOCVs' activities in the local communities cover areas such as education, agriculture and health.
At the same time, these same Japanese youth learn much more from the local Filipinos on basic human values such as family ties, compassion for those in need, and hospitality toward foreigners that comes with a smile.
Indeed, it is the Philippines that has hosted the largest number of JOCVs in the world.
I take this fact as living proof that our bilateral ties are firmly rooted in heart-to-heart relationships.
Today, Asia has grown into a network of peers on an equal footing and ambitious achievers driven by a "can-do" spirit. Trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges are all growing in this network, and certainly between Japan and the Philippines.
Our two countries have almost completed what is to be the Economic Partnership Agreement, and I look forward to its finalization.
I also eagerly look forward to Japan working closely together with the Philippines as it takes up the chairmanship of the ASEAN.
A network enables us to learn from each other.
It multiplies our combined abilities in facing up to some of the toughest challenges.
But more importantly in a network, peers neither look down upon nor look up to each other.
They just help, and develop with each other.
With this in mind, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to assure you that Japan will never cease to work with the Philippines.
We shall do so not only for the welfare of our two countries, but for the overall betterment of the entire Asia-Pacific region.
As we celebrate this year as the Philippines-Japan Friendship Year and today as the Friendship Day, I am very much gratified that from the present to the past - from the HONDA walking robot Asimo, which is now visiting the Philippines, to the performing art of Noh, which will be performed tonight together with Filipino artists - you have accommodated much from Japan.
In closing, I wish to repeat to the people of this great nation the heartfelt appreciation of the Japanese people for the lasting bond between us.
Let us continue to walk together, as friends and partners, toward the celebration of the centennial of our friendship, fifty years down the road and beyond.
Maraming salamat po! (Thank you very much.)
May I now ask everyone here to join me as I propose a toast on this historic day; may the warm friendship between the Philippines and Japan continue to prosper and may we remain steadfast in our common quest for peace!
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