By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
NEW YORK — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday and said he wanted to strengthen cooperation in priority areas such as agriculture, energy, health and infrastructure, a Japanese spokesperson said.
The leaders held a working lunch on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
“The two leaders concurred on continuing to convene the high-level joint committee on infrastructure development and economic cooperation in order to elevate the bilateral cooperation to a higher level,” Japanese Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Hikariko Ono told reporters.
Mr. Kishida also said at the meeting “the international community needs to oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China Sea, as well as economic coercion,” the spokesperson said in an apparent reference to Chinese activity regularly criticized by Japan.
The Philippine presidential palace separately confirmed the meeting.
“Both sides exchanged views on bilateral, regional and international concerns,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a statement. “PM Kishida reiterated Japan’s commitment to supporting the Philippines’ economic development to become an upper middle-income country.”
Mr. Kishida had also stressed the importance of a rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific region, she said.
The leaders tackled security, domain awareness and law enforcement at sea, as well as peace in southern Philippines, she added.
“During their meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to reinforce ties and strengthen cooperation in response to the challenges and opportunities in the regional security and economic landscape,” Ms. Angeles said.
Mr. Marcos, 65, also discussed his government’s priorities, particularly infrastructure development, food and security and cybersecurity.
After Mr. Marcos’ election in May, Japan said it wanted to continue cooperation in infrastructure development, including railways, the Subic Bay development, as well as in security and coast guard law enforcement.
Japan, an ally of the US, has rejected China’s attempts to limit freedom of navigation in the waterway, which is subject to overlapping claims from the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Japan has been the Philippines’ top source of official development assistance in the past two decades, according to the Finance department.
Mr. Marcos also met with former British Prime Minister Anthony Charles Lynton Blair and discussed with him issues on trade, food security, climate change and peace.
“We tackled the optimistic peace process in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and explored concrete ways to address other priority issues in the global economy,” Mr. Marcos said in a Facebook post.
Mr. Blair is executive chairman of the Tony Blair Institute For Global Change, an organization that helps political leaders and governments build inclusive societies.
Mr. Marcos also met with business leaders during his working visit in New York, advancing his food security agenda.
He participated in a business dialogue with members of the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Business Council and US Chamber of Commerce.
“We really have to leverage whatever assets, whatever capabilities, whatever we have so that we can maximize our ability to grow and pull the economy,” Mr. Marcos said during his meeting with the business leaders in New York City, based on a report by state-run Philippine News Agency.
“Let us find new ways to partner, let us find new ways to develop, let us find new ways to strengthen this relationship between the United States, ASEAN and the Philippines,” he added.
The Philippine leader also met with executives of Cargill Corp., a global food company based in Minnesota.
In a Facebook post, Mr. Marcos said he and Cargill executives discussed a possible cooperation in agriculture. “We discussed how to attain food security and self-sufficiency, and explored ways to boost agricultural productivity in the Philippines.”
During his presidential campaign, Mr. Marcos vowed to review a 2019 law that removed quantitative restrictions on rice imports.
He took the helm of the agriculture agency in June, vowing to boost local food production and limit imports as much as possible amid a looming global food crisis.
But experts said his local push would likely be challenged by rising prices and costs of farm inputs spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mr. Marcos would probably continue to pursue a free trade agenda despite his protectionist stance, they said. — with Reuters