PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. is expected to sign seven key bilateral deals covering infrastructure, defense, and tourism, among others, during his trip to Japan next week.
Mr. Marcos’ working visit from Feb. 8 to 12 also gives the Philippines a chance to further boost exports to Japan, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Nathaniel Imperial told a news briefing.
“During the visit, we anticipate the signing of seven key bilateral documents or agreements covering cooperation in infra development, defense, agriculture and information and communications technology — areas that are in the President’s priority agenda,” he said.
In terms of infrastructure cooperation, the Philippine government is set to sign the exchange of notes on loan agreements for the North-South Commuter Railway project from Malolos, Bulacan province to Clark International Airport, and from Manila’s Tutuban to Calamba, Laguna province.
“This will involve around USD 3 billion worth of loans that will be later signed also by the Department of Finance (DoF),” Mr. Imperial said.
Also on the list are agreements on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation between the Philippine Defense department and its Japanese counterpart.
“We are expecting the Japan trip to be more productive than the President’s speaking tour in Davos,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
“We are looking forward to continuing Japanese commitments towards completing ongoing infrastructure projects, particularly the Metro Manila subway and the North-South Commuter Railway.”
Mr. Imperial said the government hopes that the working visit would give Philippine agricultural exports, especially bananas and Hass avocados, better market access in Japan.
Japan has been the country’s biggest bilateral source of active official development assistance, providing concessional loans to finance important infrastructure and capacity building projects as well as programs on social safety, education, agriculture and science and technology, among “other high impact programs,” Mr. Imperial said.
Mr. Marcos will be joined by his wife First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and key administration allies including Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
His delegation also includes at least six Cabinet secretaries including Benjamin E. Diokno of the Finance department, Alfredo E. Pascual of the Trade department, Rafael P.M. Lotilla of the Energy department, Esperanza Christina Codilla-Frasco of the Tourism department, and Enrique A. Manalo of the Foreign Affairs department.
“Other Cabinet officials and undersecretaries” including Special Assistant to the President Antonio Ernesto F. Lagdameo, Jr. will also be part of the Philippine delegation, Mr. Imperial said, adding that there are around 150 “who signed up to join” the Philippine business delegation.
“As for the number of meetings and business activities lined up for the President, we foresee a lot of business deals to be signed in various areas,” he said, without giving details.
DFA’s Mr. Imperial said Mr. Marcos will also have roundtable and business meetings. A business seminar will also be held on Feb. 9 and 10.
“The President will also be meeting with CEOs of Japanese shipping companies and associations to advance partnerships with Philippine stakeholders in maritime education and welfare programs for our seafarers,” he said.
Mr. Marcos is also expected to meet with over a thousand Filipino migrant workers in Tokyo on Feb. 12, before returning to Manila in the evening.
Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a policy analyst, criticized the large retinue of government officials accompanying Mr. Marcos, saying this is “unnecessary and really just a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“The least the government can do is to limit the politicizing of these trips. It will boost the credibility of the government and will demonstrate a firm resolve to protect our national interest,” Mr. Yusingco said in a Facebook Messenger chat. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza