MANILA Jan 12 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe arrived in the Philippines on Thursday for a two-day visit
aimed at shoring up ties with its mercurial new leader, and
boosting Tokyo's economic foothold in the face of anticipated
competition from China.
Abe's visit is the first by a head of state to the
Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte and comes amid a
changing geopolitical landscape, much to do with a dramatic
foreign-policy shift by the firebrand leader in Manila.
Duterte has been hostile towards traditional ally the United
States while reaching out towards historic adversary China,
putting Japan in an uneasy spot given its warm ties with
Washington and rivalry with Beijing.
Upon arrival, Abe headed straight for a meeting with Duterte
at the presidential palace in Manila. He will travel to
Duterte's native of Davao on Friday, during which he and his
wife will visit Duterte's family home.
Abe described being the first leader to visit Duterte as a
"I chose the Philippines as my first destination this year
and that is testament to my primary emphasis on our bilateral
relationship," he said in addressing the meeting.
"I'm committed to elevating our bilateral relationship to a
Abe's arrival is timely and comes as China seeks to
capitalise on Duterte's openness to its investment in areas that
include infrastructure, where Japanese firms have long been
important players in Southeast Asia.
Japan is one of the biggest investors in the Philippines,
mainly in electronics, financial services and auto
manufacturing, through firms that include Toyota,
Mitsubishi and Canon.
Representatives of more than 20 Japanese companies are due
to join Abe in Davao for a meeting with Philippine companies,
which are keen to link up in areas like construction and
agribusiness, Philippine business sources said.
Jose Ma. Concepcion, the Philippines presidential consultant
for entrepreneurship, said Chinese business would have no impact
on Japan's interests, and there were plenty of opportunities up
"If you look at the level of investments, the Japanese are
far much more entrenched," he said.
"China also has opportunities. The more countries that help
us, the better."
(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Robert