Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Japanese envoy praises "future-oriented" fairness of Filipinos


MANILA (PNA) — Reiterating that post-World War II Japan is a nation reborn, Japanese ambassador to Manila Makoto Katsura has praised Filipinos for their “future-oriented attitude” toward Philippines-Japan relations.

Katsura said he takes this view to mean the “deepening (of) friendly relations” between the two countries, protagonists in the Pacific War of the 1940s, when the Philippines allied with the United States against Japanese imperialism.

“In this context, I am deeply moved by the Filipino people’s noble spirit of reconciliation and sense of fairness,” Katsura said.

The Japanese envoy made these remarks at Tuesday's commemoration rites for “Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Heroism),” formerly known as the "Fall of Bataan Day," on Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan province, about two hours from Manila.

Katsura also expressed his “heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse” over the destruction and deaths Japan’s Imperial Army inflicted on the Philippines during World War II, including the tragic Bataan Death March.

“As I stand before this venerable shrine on Mount Samat, let me reiterate my greatest tribute to all those who fought and fell, and my heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the damages caused by the Japanese military in the Philippines,” Katsura said as President Gloria Macapacal-Arroyo, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Anne Kenney, and other dignitaries and war veterans listened.

A speech by the Japanese ambassador, with the U.S. ambassador in attendance, has become an intrinsic part of the annual rites.

Thousands of allied soldiers, mostly Filipinos, were forced to join the so-called “Death March” along the highway stretch of Bataan and Pampanga as they were being moved to Capas in neighboring Tarlac province as prisoners of the Japanese Imperial Army, victors at the time.

Eventually, Japan surrendered in August 1945, deeply humiliated and reduced to destitution but aided in its national reconstruction by the U.S.

Japan now has what is known as a Peace Constitution, drafted under the leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Katsura reassured that since then, Japan “was reborn as a peace-loving nation” and “has firmly resolved to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, without allowing the terrible lessons of the war to erode.”

“Indeed, the Filipino people have been appreciating Japan as we are today -- peace-loving nation that shares the fundamental values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights.”

He said Japan is fully committed to working bilaterally or with other countries in helping with Philippine development programs, stressing that he is confident that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) “will bring the already strong ties between our two nations to a higher level.”

JPEPA has been in force since December 2008. A fresh batch of Filipino nurses is leaving for Japan soon as a result of JPEPA.

Japan is the largest donor of official assistance to the Philippines as well as its largest trade partner. “On our part, we have been trying our best to assist the Philippines' nation-building efforts as the largest donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA)," Katsura said.

Japan's ODA has expanded to include security issues, such as in Mindanao. Tokyo has dispatched two Japanese development experts to inspect potential development projects in Mindanao despite intermittent clashes between government troops and Muslim rebels.

Japan has also donated 7,500 tons of rice through the World Food Program to thousands of civilians in Mindanao displaced by the clashes in the area.

Katsura said these demonstrate Japan’s active contribution to the peace process on Mindanao. He added Japan puts emphasis on enabling displaced residents "to get back on their feet." (PNA)

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