Philippines readies for visit from Imperial couple

Kyodo

Japan and the Philippines are arranging a visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko early next year to mark the 60th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties, officials of the two countries said Tuesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and Philippine Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the two countries have been planning the Imperial couple’s visit following an invitation by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to the Emperor and Empress during his state visit to Japan in June.

“We are pleased to announce that the Philippines has started necessary coordination with Japan for a visit of their majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, to the Philippines, possibly in early 2016,” Coloma said in a statement.

The Imperial couple’s visit will most likely be scheduled around the end of January or the beginning of February, so as not to affect the Philippines’ presidential election scheduled for May, Japanese government officials said.

The Emperor and Empress last visited the Philippines in November 1962 as crown prince and princess. Coloma said it will be the first time for a reigning emperor to visit the Philippines and “returns the warm welcome their majesties extended to the president when he visited Tokyo earlier this year.”

During the trip, the Emperor and Empress are expected to mourn those who perished during fighting in the Philippines in World War II.

The Philippines, then a U.S. colony, was occupied by Japan in 1941 and later became a major battlefield in the Pacific War. Aside from the effects of the war, many Filipinos and other foreign nationals in the country also suffered and died due to Japanese atrocities.

The Emperor and Empress visited Saipan to commemorate the war dead and pray for peace in 2005, the 60th anniversary of the end of the war. As this year marks 70 years since the end of the fighting, the couple visited Palau in April for the same purpose.