[Feature] Japan and Philippines: Forging Stronger Relations

Sharing a stock article I found in my Dropbox. I wrote this 500-word essay last year when I was asked to write about the friendly relations between Japan and the Philippines. Thought I should share it for anyone who wants to read a brief rundown of the development of Philippines-Japan relations.

Japan and Philippines: Forging Stronger Relations

            2015 marks the 59th year since the normalization of relations between the Philippines and Japan. For 59 years, the Philippines and Japan have forged friendly relations with each other and have collaborated in various areas of cooperation. However, despite the good diplomatic relations between the two island nations since 1956, Philippines-Japan relations actually date further back in history.

As island nations in Asia that are geographically close in proximity, the Filipinos and Japanese have already been trading in the Philippines even before 1956. When the Philippines was still under the colonial rule of Spain, trade persisted between the two island nations. Even during the American colonial period, Japan was the second most important trading partner, supplier, and market of the Philippines next to the United States. On the other hand, raw materials and unmanufactured goods were exported from the Philippines to Japan. The volume of trade further increased between the two countries, and in 1889, the first Japanese consulate in Manila was established. In light of the Second World War, bilateral relations were cut off and it was not until the signage of the Peace Treaty in 1951 and of the reparations agreement in 1956 did the road to the normalization of relations between the Philippines and Japan began.

Since then, particularly from the 1970s to 1990s, Japan’s technical assistance, official development assistance and investments made its way into the Philippines. Trade also characterized the relationship of the two countries and had flourished since the 1990s. During that time, Filipino migrant workers also flocked to the Asian economic power. Cultural relations between the two also accelerated with the establishment of the Japan Foundation, Manila in 1996 and the influx of Japanese popular culture, which has been popular among the youth. With these developments, students and professionals were also able to study and do research in Japan with the help of government scholarships and through the establishment of Japanese Studies programs in Philippine universities. Furthermore, July also became the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month wherein various cultural activities are held nationwide every year. The Filipinos’ interest in Japan is also evident in the rising numbers of Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) takers every year. Starting in 2015, the JLPT will now be held in the Philippines twice a year. The number of Filipino tourists visiting Japan and vice versa also increased in 2015, and may not dwindle any time soon.

At present, bilateral relations between Japan and the Philippines have expanded in other areas of cooperation such as in defense exchange and training, maritime security, disaster management and prevention, and even in the peacekeeping process in Mindanao among many others. In 2015, Japan and the Philippines even elevated their strategic defense partnership by signing a Memorandum on Defense and Cooperation and Exchanges. In light of domestic and international geopolitical developments, and the advent of the 60th anniversary of Philippine-Japan diplomatic relations, it is expected that Philippine-Japan bilateral relations in various aspects are only going to get stronger.

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