By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

SUCCESSFUL TRIP. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Monday (Dec. 18, 2023) concludes his successful participation in the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Japan Friendship and Cooperation Commemorative Summit in Tokyo, Japan. In a video message, Marcos reported that the country secured investment commitments worth PHP14.5 billion during his Tokyo trip. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. returned home Monday night from his participation in the 50th Association (ASEAN)-Japan Friendship and Cooperation Commemorative Summit in Tokyo, describing the regional bloc’s ties with Japan as robust and enduring.

Marcos said he advocated a rules-based Indo-Pacific region that is “free and open”, guided by the shared fundamental principles as enshrined in the United Nations (UN) charter and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia.

He emphasized the need for the regional bloc to have an active role in maintaining peace, security, and stability in the region.

“We highlighted the need to promote respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, settlement of differences or dispute by peaceful means, and renunciation of the threat or use of force,” Marcos said. “Without a doubt, this summit reaffirmed the robust and enduring character of ASEAN-Japan relations.”

As to the worsening plight of the Myanmar people, Marcos said he urged stakeholders to have a proactive engagement to resolve the dispute through the 5-Point Consensus, the UN mechanisms, as well as the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre).

Marcos also ensured that the Philippines, as permanent country coordinator for ASEAN-Japan economic relations, would continue to shepherd ASEAN initiatives and projects not only to co-create a region of economic prosperity but also an inclusive society that is “ready for the future”.

“My administration will see to it that our constructive engagements with ASEAN, our external partners, our stakeholders continue to best serve our national interest in as much as we promote the regional interest of Peace and prosperity for the wellbeing of our people,” he said.

The commemorative summit, Marcos said, also highlighted Tokyo’s commitment to promoting friendship and camaraderie among the peoples of ASEAN and Japan through various initiatives, including the Japan-East Asian Network of Exchange for Students and Youths (JENESYS) Programme.

“We also discussed how Japan’s role in ASEAN and individual states’ economies have progressed over the past five decades, particularly in our shared commitment towards peace and security, trade and investment, food security, climate action, energy security, supply chain resilience, infrastructure development, and connectivity,” he said.

Marcos also brought the good news that the Philippines has secured a total of PHP14.5 billion worth of business commitments from Japanese investors.

Increasing partnership

Meanwhile, an official of the National Security Council said the planned Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) highlights the increasing strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan.

In a statement, NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said the RAA will greatly enhance the Philippines’ security aside from beefing up its disaster response capabilities.

He said the RAA is similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement, which the Philippines have with the United States.

Once the RAA pushes through, Malaya said this would allow Filipino troops to train in Japan and their Japanese counterparts to do the same in the Philippines. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)