By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz & Recto Mercene, May 16 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

THE Philippines and Japan are now collaborating on new labor initiatives to further strengthen the ties between the two countries, the Japanese ambassador to the Philippines said.

Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda made the statement as the Philippines and Japan celebrated ties in the “Reiwa era” under newly ascended Emperor Naruhito on Tuesday.

Haneda also said deepening people-to-people relations and other cooperation projects are now in the pipeline—efforts that are seen to be boosted when President Duterte visits Japan in late May, his third trip to Tokyo.

Heralding a new age of Philippine-Japanese friendship, Philippine officials led by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo joined Haneda and other Japanese dignitaries in celebrating on Tuesday the ascension of Emperor Naruhito to the Chrysanthemum Throne.

Speaker Arroyo and Locsin were joined by Malacañang Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, the Speaker’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, Haneda’s wife, Iheka Haneda, Locsin’s wife Ma. Lourdes, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, and former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, among others.

“In the new era of labor, we will engage in our best efforts to further promote stronger ties with the people of the Philippines. We are already witnessing positive developments both at grassroots and high level. [The] opening of the Consulate General of Japan in Davao this year is expected to enhance people-to-people exchange between Mindanao and Japan,” Haneda said.

Earlier, the Department of Labor and Employment said it anticipated about 100,000 of the 350,000 jobs available for migrant workers in Japan will go to Filipinos with the implementation of the new Philippine-Japan Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC).

The agency said the MOC is expected to take effect within the second quarter of the year.  The MOC will cover 14 skilled categories including health care, building maintenance, food services, industrial machinery, electronics, food manufacturing, agriculture, hospitality, construction, shipbuilding, fisheries and aquaculture, parts and tooling and aviation.

Aside from providing new employment opportunities, the MOC will also improve the cooperation between Philippine and Japanese authorities when it comes to the recruitment of OFWs and ensuring the protection of their welfare in Japan.

Moreover, Haneda noted, the robust diplomatic ties of the Philippines and Japan is now at its golden age.

“Across the 30 years of the Heisei Era of His Majesty Emperor Emeritus Akihito, the relations between Japan and the Philippines were immensely strengthened. We are now here enjoying the golden age of our strategic partnership,” he said.

The ambassador expressed confidence such friendship will continue as Japan enters its Reiwa Era (interpreted as beautiful harmony), following the abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30, 2019. Emperor Naruhito is the 126th monarch to occupy the throne in accordance with Japan’s traditional order of succession.

Haneda said the emperor emeritus “shall for us remain a bright, shining example for generations of people who aspire for peace and stability  with  honor and independence.”

In his speech, Locsin said the Reiwa Era under the new emperor is a time of peace and prosperity.

“On the bilateral front, we are confident that the Reiwa Era will impart a stronger impetus to our strategic partnership. Japan has an important place in our pantheon of real friends,’” he said.

He said Japan is the Filipinos’ inspiration that one can be a friend of the strong, without submission, “for in her tightest alliance she has ever held to her true course.”

Locsin said that, for millennia, the emperor has personified the unity of the Japanese people and the continuity of Japan’s age-old traditions.

He continued: “Japan is the longest-lived, continuous civilization in history, and there is good reason for it,” such that “in this modern age, when the old tends to be forgotten in favor of the new, it comforts and inspires the rest of us to witness this historic transition and with it, the depth and richness of the Japanese people’s connection and respect for their past as a touchstone for shaping their future.”

He said the secret of longevity of Japan’s culture “lies in its constant striving to be ever purer in the expression of the Japanese character, in its unique exultation of the perishability of beauty, and therefore all the more the imperative to keep it fresh by constant refining.

“What passes is excess, what fades is the inessential, what stays is simplicity; therein lies the universal appeal of Japanese culture.”

Secretary Locsin then recited a Japanese Noh play:

“Wind at morning, rain at night,

Today and tomorrow,

Shall be part of long ago.

We who pass through a world,

Evanescent as the dew of evening,

Uncertain as the skies of spring.

We that are as foam upon the stream—can anyone be our enemy?”