Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri
Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri underscored on Wednesday, Nov. 1 the historical significance of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s upcoming appearance and speech before a joint session of Congress later this week.
According to Zubiri, Kishida’s activity before Congress was an honor accorded to a foreign head of state only five times in Philippine history.
The Senate chief said the last time the House of Representatives and the Senate convened to hear and receive a message from the head of a nation was in February 2006 during the visit of President Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam of India.
The other four instances are: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in April 2005; China President Hu Jintao also in April 2005; United States (US) President George W. Bush in 2003; and US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960.
Zubiri said in a statement that Kishida’s visit will “strengthen cooperation between two allies in confronting common challenges”.
“We look forward to the address of a leader of a nation that is a robust trading partner, a strong security ally, a lending hand during calamities, and an investor in Philippine progress,“ Zubiri said.
Deeper than government ties, Zubiri said, are “people-to-people relations nurtured by tourism where citizens of one country enjoy the hospitality and culture of the other”.
Zubiri said Japan is the largest bilateral source of the Philippines’ official development assistance (ODA).
According to data from the Department of Finance (DOF), ODA from Japan amounted to $14.139 billion or P7.77 trillion over a 20-year period spanning three presidencies from 2001 to 2020, accounting for 72 percent of all $19.656 billion total bilateral loan portfolio for the same period.
In fact, during President Marcos’ visit to Tokyo this April, Japan has pledged P250 billion in aid to the Philippines in the next two years to aid the country in its bid to reach middle-income status by 2025.
At 9 a.m. on Nov. 4, both the Senate and the House of Representatives will convene separately to pass two resolutions: one to Kishida and another to convene the joint session.
The scheduled 11 a.m. address at the Batasan Complex is a result of Zubiri’s personal invitation to Kishida during a Philippine Senate delegation’s visit to Tokyo in April this year.
“We are honored that the good Prime Minister accepted our invitation for him to address the Filipino people through Congress,” Zubiri said.
The Nov. 4 session is considered a special session, since Congress (House and Senate) is still on legislative recess. The two chambers are set to reconvene separately on Monday, Nov. 6.
Zubiri was on two official visits to Japan this year: first as part of the delegation of President Marcos in February and second as head of a delegation from the Philippine Senate in April for a parliamentary visit.
On both occasions, it was the Senate chief who broached the idea of the possibility of a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with Japan, an enhanced security arrangement.
Zubiri said he expects government officials to brief Kishida on the progress of Japanese-supported big-ticket infrastructure projects, especially on rail such as the Manila subway.
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