MANILA – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday said Tokyo will support the Philippines in ending the drug menace, even as President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody campaign has earned him condemnation from various governments and international bodies.
Abe arrived in Manila on Thursday, his first stop on a four-nation trip in the region, in a bid to improve ties with the Philippines and its neighbors amid the backdrop of regional uncertainty brought by the election of Donald Trump as United States president and the rise of China.
In his statement following a summit meeting with Duterte and other Philippine officials, Abe said Japan has pledged to help the Philippines solve its illegal drug trade problem.
“On countering illegal drugs, we want to to work together with the Philippines to think of relevant measures of support,” Abe said through an interpreter.
“For our part, Japan will tap, among others, the knowledge of the private sector to assist in the improvement of related facilities, formulation of treatment programs, and in other areas.”
The Japanese government has been careful not to suffer the same fate of its major ally, the U.S., which earned the ire of Duterte for criticizing the latter’s war on drugs.
Despite condemnation from the U.S. and the United Nations of Duterte’s war on drugs, which has so far claimed around 6,000 lives, Japan has not criticized the new government's bloody campaign.
Duterte has also praised U.S. rivals China and Russia for their non-interference in his drug crackdown.
In contrast to his constant criticism of the U.S., Duterte has repeatedly expressed admiration for Japan, Manila’s largest donor and top trading partner.
“As the Philippines pursues its campaign to destroy the illegal drug trade apparatus, we welcome the expression of interest of Japan to support measures to address the tremendous social cost of drug addiction. This includes rehabilitation,” Duterte said.
Duterte also thanked Japan for its role in developing Philippine infrastructure and supporting the peace process in Mindanao.
“Japan is a proven partner of peace in Mindanao and it will continue to be one. For Japan’s demonstrated and sustained support to bring peace to our people in Mindanao, we are grateful,” Duterte said.
Abe is the first foreign head of government to be hosted by Duterte since he assumed office in June last year.
Manila is the Japanese leader’s first foreign trip of the year and Abe said this showed how he put “much emphasis” on his relationship with Duterte.
Manila has always been looking to Japan in developing its poor infrastructure and improving its maritime capability.
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