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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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BEYOND SIGHT: Japan-ASEAN friendship now 50 years strong

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By Monsi A. Serrano

In commemorating the Golden Year of Japan and ASEAN friendship and cooperation, a celebration of profound significance unfolded. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, accompanied by Mrs. Yuko Kishida, joined esteemed ASEAN leaders and their spouses in marking the 50th year of this invaluable partnership.

The event served as a catalyst, fostering a deeper connection and fortifying the bonds of friendship and cooperation between Japan and its ASEAN allies. Together, these leaders embarked on a journey to articulate a collective vision, one that holds the promise of regional security, stability, and prosperity.

Acknowledging the nuanced challenges confronting the region, the Japan-ASEAN summit emerged as an admirable platform—a confluence where leaders deliberated on their shared aspirations for a stable, prosperous, and united region.

Importantly, this collaboration stands poised to contribute significantly to the ongoing global economic recovery, a pressing need as the world contends with the enduring impact of the Chiva virus. In forging this immutable cooperation, these nations exemplify the enduring spirit of friendship and cooperation that defines the essence of this Golden Year celebration.

Sadly, China has refrained from becoming an agent of peace in the region and, instead, has become like Eris, the Greek goddess of discord, and sowed trouble into the Indo-Pacific region. Japan, like Zeus, acted with utmost prudence and uses its wisdom by taking not just the high road but also the binding force and agent of peace in the region by harping on the 50th year of Japan-ASEAN friendship.

This is why Japan is being admired by its neighbors and the whole world because they would rather collaborate than follow the favorite style of China, Russia, Hamas, and other radical Muslims, which is “divide et impera” (Divide and Rule). As I said in my previous column, this is the reason why China’s diplomacy miserably failed in the Philippines.

Japan Bridges Gaps, Challenges China

Addressing the ongoing challenges in the Philippines-China dynamic requires a measured evaluation. While we refrain from directly confronting China’s actions as bullying or employing questionable tactics, it is essential to recognize the complexities surrounding their Belt and Road Initiative. Regrettably, the initiative, initially heralded as a pathway to mutually beneficial cooperation, has raised concerns.

The reality is that the initiative appears entangled with issues of deception, human rights violations, environmental exploitation, and a form of diplomacy entailing potential debt traps. During the previous administration under President Duterte, there seemed to be a notable reticence in addressing these concerns, with accusations of facilities being established in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

A potential correlation between the former president’s assets, as reflected in his SALN, and the purported financial influx during his tenure may provide insights into this matter. In Duterte’s time, there were allegations of financial incentives to ensure silence on these matters. However, the current scenario indicates a shift, with military officials and Coast Guards now taking a stand against perceived acquiescence and subservience to China. This nuanced perspective underscores the need for diplomatic discussions to navigate the intricate dynamics in the pursuit of a more balanced and transparent relationship.

Japan has made a lasting impact on Filipinos, with its diverse initiatives amid the pandemic leaving an indelible mark. This includes engagements in media, arts, culture, health, education, investments, and maritime security. The Japan Embassy in the Philippines, along with its officials, has earned the admiration of Filipinos not through coercion but through exemplary traits of humility, compassion, and deep engagement—a true embodiment of the Latin maxim, “Verba movent, exempla trahent” (Words inspire, actions influence).


In my initial interview with Japanese Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa in February 2021, we discussed topics ranging from investment support to maritime security. Remarkably, everything we discussed during that one-on-one conversation is materializing, with a perfect score of 10 out of 10 initiatives coming to fruition. This starkly contrasts with those who, perhaps misled by the purported “benevolence” of China, believed in unfounded narratives perpetuated by the likes of Rody Duterte’s minions, the dirty trick department, and trolls.

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