Congress to hold joint session for Japan PM Kishida 

Cristina Chi – Philstar.com

November 1, 2023 | 5:21pm

MANILA, Philippines —  Both chambers of Congress will convene for a joint session on Saturday to hear Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida deliver his speech for Philippine lawmakers — only the fifth head of state to do so in the history of the legislature.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri extended an invitation for Kishida to address the House of Representatives and the Senate during a visit by senators to Tokyo in April, according to a statement.

Kishida will address Congress on Saturday, 11 a.m. at the Batasang Pambansa Complex.

The last time the House of Representatives and the Senate convened to receive a message from a head of state was in February 2006, during the visit of Indian President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam.

Other heads of state welcomed by Congress were Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in April 2005; China President Hu Jintao also in April 2005; US President George W. Bush in 2003; and US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960.

“We are honored that the good Prime Minister accepted our invitation for him to address the Filipino people through Congress,” Zubiri said.

Kishita’s two-day visit to the Philippines on Friday and Saturday will “strengthen cooperation between two allies in confronting common challenges” and establish people-to-people relations related to the tourism industry of both countries, Zubiri added.

“We look forward to the address of a leader of a nation that is a robust trading partner, a strong security ally, a lending hand during calamities, and an investor in Philippine progress,” Zubiri said.

Similarly, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said that he is hopeful that Kishida’s visit will open new opportunities for collaboration and strengthen bilateral ties between the Philippines and Japan.

“This visit, symbolizing the deep and longstanding bond our nations have forged, built on mutual respect, shared values, and a unified vision for peace, stability, and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, signifies the strength of our bilateral ties,” Romualdez said.

Japan remains the Philippines’ largest source of official development assistance since the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo up to the current presidency of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. 

According to the Department of Finance, at least $14.139 billion in loans from Japan were contracted and committed over a 20-year period during the Arroyo, Aquino and Duterte administrations combined.

Japan is also a major partner of the Philippines in key sectors, including infrastructure development, renewable energy, humanitarian assistance, disaster response, education and public health enhancement. 

The Philippines has also been handpicked as one of the first countries to receive Japan’s freshly launched “official security assistance” — a program that provides defense-related equipment, supplies and infrastructure development in the form of grants, according to a Japan Times report.

In October, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern over the collision between Chinese and Filipino vessels and said that it “opposes any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force as well as any actions that increase tension in the South China Sea.”

— with reports by Gaea Katreena Cabico


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