Duterte set to attend Emperor’s banquet

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    PRESIDENT Duterte is set to join hundreds of heads of states and renowned personalities who would attend the enthronement of Japanese Emperor Naruhito in Tokyo today, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and concurrent Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday.

    Panelo said the President will leave for Japan late Monday from Davao with a very lean delegation and return to country on October 24. He could not say who was included in the delegation but described it as “leaner than we thought.”

    He said apart from attending the enthronement ceremony on October 22, Duterte would attend the Emperor’s banquet on the same day and another banquet hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on October 23.

    The President, through Special Order 1125 signed on October 18, named Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea as officer in charge from October 21 to 23 to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Office of the President and the general administration of the Executive Department.

    Panelo initially said that Duterte might skip the ceremony and send a representative due to his busy schedule but the President, on his return from his visit to Russia, said he felt that he needed to attend the event.

    Panelo said Duterte believes that it is important for him to attend the ceremony to honor Japan as an “important partner” and as a “special strategic partner” of the Philippines.

    He said the Philippines greatly values its diplomatic ties with Japan even as the Duterte administration pursues its independent foreign policy.

    “The golden age of Philippines-Japan friendship has indeed started to unfold. PRRD, as our Head of State, therefore believes that it is but proper to give honor to an important partner by being present at the enthronement ceremony which is considered by the Japanese to be one of their country’s most momentous events,” Panelo said.

    Panelo said Japan is presently the Philippines’ second major trading partner and fourth biggest source and market for Philippine tourism.

    Japan has also been the largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) provider to the Philippines and has contributed a lot to the country’s infrastructure development, like the development of the first subway in Metro Manila and the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi.

    Panelo said during Duterte’s third and last visit to Japan in May, 26 business agreements – with an estimated investment value of P288 billion ($5.5 billion) and is projected to create 82,737 jobs in the country – had been signed.

    “The signing of these business agreements showed Japan’s vote of confidence in the President’s method of governance, and in its country’s economic prospects,” he said.