JUNE 21, 2009 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY, MALACANANG) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo leaves Japan today (Saturday, June 20) setting in motion the smooth and efficient implementation of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in labor and trade, security and economic cooperation.

The President described the fruits of her first official visit here since the JPEPA’s ratification during an interview by Paolo Romero of the Philippine Star and two senior reporters of the Asahi Shimbun and Nikkei, two of the biggest media outfits in this city.

The interview took place this morning at the Presidential Suite of the Imperial Hotel here.

“It has been a very fruitful visit. I came here as an official guest upon the invitation of the Japanese government so that we can pursue our very good bilateral relations and cooperation on a number of fields -- labor and trade, security and economy,” the President said.

On labor and trade, the President said the Philippines and Japan have been working on a smooth and efficient implementation of the JPEPA.

With the full implementation of JPEPA, Philippine export products such as bananas, pineapples, crabs, shrimp, tuna and even chicken will find a new market in Japan which, in turn, can supply the Philippine manufacturing sector with critical inputs such as specialty steel products and auto, electrical and electronic parts. Textiles and apparel will also enjoy mutual elimination of tariffs.

On security, the President said she was very glad when the Japanese Diet passed an Act yesterday that will further protect Filipino seafarers particularly those being deployed in vessels passing through the Gulf of Aden.

With the Philippines supplying 70 percent of the manpower on Japanese vessels and being the number one seafarer provider in the world, an estimated 227 Filipino sailors have already been abducted by pirates in the area.

“And I am very glad yesterday when both Prime Minster Taro Aso, who told me the day before, and the Japanese Minister of Transportation that the Japanese Diet has passed an Act that empowers the Japanese government to send patrol crafts from its Self-Defence Force to protect ships in the Gulf of Aden not only carrying the Japanese flag but the flag of any nationality,” the President said.

“That is a very, very big source of comfort for our Filipino seafarers and our government,” she added.

The President said Japan was the first country to really give, “in action”, a comprehensive solution to the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

“We also declared that we stand four-square behind our friend and ally Japan in seeking a comprehensive solution to the North Korean issue in line with the UN Security Council resolutions and hopefully through the Six-Party Talks framework,” the President said.

With Japan being our largest source of Official Development Assistance (ODA), the President also witnessed the signing of three agreements worth about $500 million.

The President said these will support credit for the agribusiness sector, infrastructure system such as ports, bridges and the roll-on roll-off (RO-RO) ferry system, and disaster mitigation and adaptation for Camiguin Island in Mindanao.

“I also had the honor of meeting with Their Majesties, the Emperor and the Empress, with Prime Minister Taro Aso and senior Japanese government officials, parliamentarians, with the business community and my message to all of them is: We value Japan as a reliable friend and ally,” the President said.

After the interview, the President visited the 39 Filipino nurses undergoing free Nihonggo language training at the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS) Language Training Facility here.

The nurses are part of the 283 health workers undergoing free language training in Japan that include 190 caregivers whom the President said are the “first visible impact” of the implementation of the JPEPA.

Afterwards, the President together with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and the rest of official Philippine delegation left Tokyo to forge a better relationship between the Philippines and Brazil.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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