At the recent summit in Tokyo between President Duterte and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the Japanese government reaffirmed its commitment to provide economic cooperation worth 1 trillion over the next five years.
The move is seen as an economic assistance race against Beijing to form a better relationship with Manila.
Abe has been trying hard to win Duterte over in dealing with territorial disputes in the South China Sea, in which the Philippines is a key diplomatic player.
Meanwhile, China, too, is trying to woo Manila by pledging to extend economic assistance worth $24 billion (P1..2 trillion). The pledge was made when Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Duterte in Beijing in October last year.
Then, in January, Abe pledged that the government and private-sector corporations will extend economic cooperation over five years to help Duterte’s initiatives to revamp social infrastructure, including projects to build subways in Manila and improve rivers in Davao City, where Duterte served as mayor for many years.
“The government of Japan will strongly support the sustainable economic development of the Philippines by extending quality infrastructure assistance, using Japan’s funding and technology,” a joint statement issued by the two leaders said.
Japan’s assistance will include programs to ease “serious traffic congestion” in Manila and to “vitalize other areas” as well, it read.
For his part, Duterte has been trying to “maximize” economic assistance both from Japan and China, said Wataru Kusaka, associate professor of political science at the Graduate School of International Development at Nagoya University.
“Duterte’s intention looks very clear. He is trying to maximize what he can win from Japan and China,” Kusaka said.