Philippine pact on maritime cooperation set

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Philippine counterpart agreed Thursday to enhance the two countries’ strategic partnership, including boosting maritime cooperation amid their territorial disputes with China, while Tokyo announced it will also extend ¥54 billion in low-interest loans to Manila for infrastructure development.

“On the political and security front, we agreed on strengthening policy dialogue and enhancing maritime cooperation, among other measures,” Kishida told a news conference after holding talks in Manila with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

“As the strategic environment is changing, as foreign ministers it is necessary for us to share a mutual recognition of the situation, enhance the bilateral strategic partnership and cooperate toward shaping a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region,” Kishida said.

Del Rosario said Japan has already been helping strengthen the capabilities of the Philippine Coast Guard by training its workforce, and has also been helping to augment the force’s communications system equipment for maritime safety.

He said the coast guard’s potential acquisition from Japan of 10 multirole response vessels is “undergoing serious consideration.”

Kishida said he told del Rosario that Tokyo has decided to extend yen loans to two projects: ¥43.3 billion for a light rail transit project and ¥10.8 billion for the construction of a new airport on the island of Bohol.

Del Rosario said Japan remains his country’s largest source of official development assistance in terms of loans, adding, “The Philippines looks forward to stronger cooperation with Japan in developing our country’s infrastructure, particularly in the transportation sector.”

He said that besides maritime cooperation and aid, he also had “productive discussions” with Kishida on other matters, including trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchanges.

Kishida said the two sides agreed “to advance cooperation in expanding trade and investment,” and that he told del Rosario that Japan will accept more Filipino caregivers under the bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement that took effect in 2008.