May 22 ------ The Philippines and Japan on Thursday agreed to step up mutual support during the ongoing pandemic and to foster with regional partners a unified approach to the post-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) ‘new normal’. In a telephone conversation, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. and Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu also discussed several diplomatic initiatives regarding the COVID-19 crisis, such as understanding its origin and nature, finding a cure, and adopting protocols to address its certain recurrence in a timely and therefore immediately effective fashion.
The Japanese official conveyed his government’s appreciation for the help provided by the Philippines to its efforts to bring home Japanese nationals from the country. Motegi assured of Japan’s readiness to assist both the Philippines and the larger ASEAN region in recovering from impacts of COVID-19 and building public health and economic resilience against future such emergencies. At the same time, Motegi pledged undiminished support for infrastructure and other development projects with the Philippines that have been in the pipeline before the outbreak.
Locsin, for his part, thanked Japan for its facilitation of the Philippine government’s repatriation operations, particularly the mass repatriation of Filipinos aboard the MV Diamond Princess and the Costa Atlantica. Both officials recognized the critical role of closer and coordinated regional efforts, including under the ASEAN-Japan and ASEAN Plus Three frameworks, in enabling the region to respond and weather future pandemics. In an apparent reference to the South China Sea issue, Locsin and Motegi agreed on the importance of regional players prioritizing cooperation amid the crisis, and avoiding actions that raise regional tensions and breach of international law, as countries endeavor to overcome the pandemic and revitalize their economies.