The Japanese government pledged stronger support to Mindanao as the era of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) begins after the overwhelming ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) in separate plebiscites held on January 21 and February 6, this year.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono met separately with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on Sunday at the Waterfront Hotel in Lanang, Davao City.
During the bilateral conference with Sec. Dominguez, Kono said the Japanese government welcomed the ratification of the BOL as it has been supporting the Mindanao peace process development for more than a decade.
The Japanese foreign minister was also pleased with the opening of the Consulate-General of Japan in Davao City, which will serve as “springboard to enhance the bilateral relationship and close cooperation between Japan and Mindanao.”
“We appreciate your driving force to get the bilateral relationship closer and stronger,” Kono said.
The Consulate-General of Japan in Davao is located at Jose P. Laurel Avenue in Davao City.
Kono also sent the Japanese government’s sympathies to the victims’ families of the bombing inside the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Jolo, Sulu which killed 21 people and injured 100 others.
Kono reiterated the Japanese government’s condemnation against any act of terrorism in the country.
Joining Dominguez and Kono during the bilateral meeting are Jose Laurel, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Japan and DOF undersecretary Mark Joven.
The finance secretary thanked Japan for its continuous support to the Philippine government in the major infrastructure projects and sectoral cooperation.
“Over the years, Japan remained to be the Philippines’ top official development assistance or ODA partner. We recognize the steadfast commitment of the Government of Japan in supporting our country’s development agenda especially in helping us jump-start the aggressive Build, Build, Build infrastructure modernization program so crucial to our nation’s sustained economic development,” Dominguez said.
The DOF chief said that nine loan agreements were signed between the government of Japan and the Philippines, while six high-level meetings were already convened since 2017, in view of strengthening of Philippines-Japan Joint Statement on Bilateral Cooperation.
“With frequent coordination meetings, our accomplishments in the last two years are unprecedented,” Dominguez said as he personally looks forward to the 7th High Level meeting in Osaka, Japan later this month to further explore economic cooperation between the two countries.
In a separate interview shortly after emerging from the closed door talks with Kono, MILF chair Ebrahim said that he is happy with Japan’s pledge of support to Mindanao especially now that transition towards BARMM will be formalized within this month.
Ebrahim said that that the discussion was more focused on the Japan’s participation on the programs of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
“We wish the Japanese government will continue and strengthen their support of the development program of the (BARMM) area,” Ebrahim said.