These two countries may have been at war over 70 years ago, but on Friday Japan and the Philippines affirmed their commitment to help each other. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday pledged a total of about 69 billion yen (almost US$670 million) in loans to the Philippines to help in the rehabilitation of typhoon-hit areas and boosting the country’s maritime security. Abe also pledged helped in dealing with an increasingly assertive China, sealing this help from Tokyo with Manila’s acquisition of 10 Coast Guard patrol ships.
In a joint press conference after his meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Abe also announced additional grant aid worth 6.5 billion yen. Of the yen loans, post-disaster standby loans amount to 50 billion yen and the remainder is for providing the country with 10 coast guard patrol ships. When super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines last month, Japan sent a disaster relief team, including one of the largest-ever rescue groups of Self-Defense Force troops, to the southeast Asian country. Japan engaged in the disaster relief activities “because of special relations between Japan and the Philippines as strategic partners and because of Japanese people’s wish to reciprocate the warm assistance from the Philippines following the Japanese earthquake (in 2011),” Abe said.
President Aquino and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meeting at the latter’s official residence, also shared concerns about the freedom of flight in international space, in reference to Beijing’s newly declared air defense identification zone in the East China Sea covering the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands. The Philippines and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are locked in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, and the latter recently reiterated that it is able to replicate in any other area that it deems under its sovereignty what it did in the East China Sea (enforcing an air defense zone).