Saturday, January 07, 2006

Philippines & Japan Mark 50 Years Of Friendship

The Philippine government launched the 2006 Philippines-Japan Friendship Year and designated July 23 as Philippines-Japan Friendship Day to commemorate the 50th year of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she is looking forward to "seeing more strengthened and expanded ties" with Japan in trade, investment and cultural exchanges.
Japan's ambassador to Manila, Ryuichiro Yamazaki, said bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines have "advanced in a manner that they are now closer than ever before." He said the two countries are set to finalize an economic partnership agreement within the year that will make them "as close and solid as never before." Japan and the Philippines have been hammering out details of a broad free trade agreement that would include entry of Filipino nurses into Japan to help cope with a shortage. Anti-Japanese sentiments still flare in some Asian countries like China and South Korea where memories of the Japanese Imperial Army's wartime acts have not faded. But in the Philippines, most Filipinos are friendly toward Japan -- a fact that has puzzled some historians -- with thousands of Filipinos now working in Japan and the government heavily dependent on Japanese aid. Since the end of World War II, Japan has ceaselessly endeavored to win back Filipinos and good relations between Manila and Tokyo have ensued. Government figures show Japan, the Philippines' top foreign investor, has poured $9.8 billion in official development assistance into the Philippines and various other resources in the past two decades. This is apart from the massive reparation programs it instituted in the 1950s to revive the ailing Philippine economy heavily destroyed by war. The Labor and Employment Department said an estimated 80,000 Filipino entertainers, mostly women, work in Japan's nightclubs and bars and form part of about 8 million Filipinos abroad buoying the Philippine economy through their remittances. Daniel Dizon, 76, can still picture the bayonets pointed at women fleeing a Japanese siege more than 60 years ago and the rampage of Japanese soldiers burning down houses, raping women and beheading men in a village north of Manila where he lived. "I cannot forget, as hard as I tried, that chapter in my life," said Dizon, adding that he chokes up whenever he recounts memories of war which seemingly refuse to fade. But to this day, Dizon, a retired history professor, talks about Word War II with relief. Gone are the war's bitter memories, Dizon said, who helped his town in Pampanga Province put up few years ago a kamikaze memorial, adding that Japan has evolved to become one of the Philippines' most reliable allies. The friendly ties between erstwhile enemies does not show that Filipinos, who claim 1 million deaths during the war, have a short historical memory, Dizon said. It is because Filipinos are "happy-go-lucky people" who do not harbor resentment for so long, he said. "If you show them good deeds, their hearts easily soften."