JAPAN has pledged to provide assistance for the Philippines as it rebuilds Marawi City in its Southern Mindanao, after being ravaged by a months’ long conflict with Islamic State-inspired militants.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the pledges in a joint statement with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte following talks in Tokyo on Monday. “The Government of Japan recognises that rehabilitation and reconstruction of the City of Marawi [are] extremely important,” said the statement.
Duterte on Oct 23 announced the end of five months of military operations in Marawi held by Islamic State rebels in a conflict that destroyed much of the city’s centre and displaced some 300,000 people.
Japan also offered to help with other projects ranging from rail infrastructure to river defences including a possible JPY600 billion (US$5.3 billion) loan to help fund development of a subway in Manila.
The meeting was an opportunity for Abe to discuss security in Asia ahead of key regional meetings beginning with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) gathering in Vietnam in November.
“I confirmed with President Duterte that we are both maritime nations sharing basic values and strategic interests,” Abe said during his joint announcement with Duterte. The two countries, he added, would address common issues including North Korea and “a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Japan is concerned about China’s growing power in the South China Sea and sees cooperation with the Philippines, which lies on the waterway’s eastern side, as key ally in helping prevent Beijing’s influence spreading into the western Pacific.
As it fought Maute Group militants in Marawi, the Philippines armed forces were provided with a shipment of US$7.35 million worth of arms.
Duterte, unlike his predecessor, Benigno Aquino, has been less critical of Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea. The Philippine leader will return home on Tuesday after an audience with the Japanese Emperor.
Abe and Duterte will travel to Vietnam for the two-day APEC meeting from Nov 11, which US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend.
Leaders from Asean and other countries in the region will meet again in the Philippines after the APEC gathering for the East Asia Summit and a gathering of Asen that will be chaired by Duterte.
Duterte in his statement in Tokyo did not mention China, instead calling North Korea to halt its ballistic missile and nuclear test and return to talks with the US, Japan and other countries.
Additional reporting by Reuters