TOKYO—The Duterte administration is banking on Manila’s history of “good synergy” with Tokyo to further expand bilateral trade as it “rebalances” Philippine foreign policy towards swift integration with both the country’s neighbors and Asia’s economic powerhouses, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said here.
Dominguez said that as an “old trusted trade partner,” Japan “fits in the center” of the Duterte government’s “rebalancing” of foreign policy towards integrating not only with the Philippines’ Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbor-economies but with Japan, China and South Korea as well.
A member of President Duterte’s official party in his just-concluded three-day visit here, Dominguez said in media interviews that “there is a very good synergy between Japan and the Philippines. We don’t see that relationship going sour and we think it is going to progress through the years.”
“The Philippines and Japan have a very long relationship,” he said. “Japan is our largest ODA (Official Development Assistance) donor and you know the President has said many times that he appreciates their generosity.”
When asked in one of these foreign media interviews how Japan fits in the Duterte administration’s foreign policy rebalancing, Dominguez said “Japan fits in the center of it as our old trusted trade partner. We want them to take a closer look at the Philippines.”
Added the finance secretary: “We are a country of 105 million people. We are growing very fast. It’s a good market for them. We want to increase our markets here for manufactured goods as well as agricultural products.”
“Sixty (60) years ago we established our diplomatic relationships with them and through them we have had a lot opportunity to do business,” said Dominguez, noting that Japan has helped developed the Philippines’ banana, car and logging industries.
Personally, he said, he himself was once chief operating officer (COO) of a company that was minority owned by Japanese company Sumitomo.
“They helped develop our logging industry, they helped develop our banana industry, our car industry,” he said. “So there’s a long relationship, in fact I personally used to be the CEO of a company that was 40% owned by Sumitomo.”
Dominguez pointed out that opening up the domestic economy and “focusing on integration” with the ASEAN as well as the North Asia economies of Japan, China and South Korea is “going to be very good for us. It’s a smart move for us to integrate.”
“That’s a total market of two billion people. You have 600 million in ASEAN, 1.3 billion in China, 200 million in Japan and South Korea.,” he said. “So it’s two billion people and its growing.”
Dominguez and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia have said that the Philippines’ economic integration with its fellow-members in the ASEAN, along with China, Japan and South Korea, opens the country to a lucrative market of 1.8 billion people across the region.
They said that while the Duterte administration will maintain its good relations with Western economies, it will now push for “stronger integration” with its neighbors in the region.
During President Duterte’s official visit to Japan, Dominguez informed investors that now is a “fine time” to invest in the Philippines as Tokyo rekindles its ties with Manila and the Duterte administration has crafted a “business-friendly” socioeconomic agenda that underlines its readiness and capability to drastically reduce poverty and lift the economy to high middle-income status in six years’ time.
The Philippines and Japan also signed agreements that would help the former improve its maritime safety capability, including a deal for a P16.5 billion yen concessional loan covered by Tokyo’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) for the acquisition of two large-scale patrol vessels for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The agreement for the 16.5-billion yen loan signed by Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) president Shinichi Kitaoka during President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Japan is part of Tokyo’s continuing assistance to the PCG’s Maritime Safety Capability Improvement Project (MSCIP).