Honorable Samuel Bagasin, Under Secretary for Veterans and Reserve Affairs, Department of National Defense;
His Excellency Andrew Graeme Matheson, Ambassador of New Zealand;
Honorable Carlos Jericho Petilla, Governor of Leyte;
Honorable Mimietta Bagulaya, Vice governor of Leyte;
Honorable Remedios Petilla, Mayor of Palo;
Distinguished Veterans and Guests;
Distinguished Colleagues of the Diplomatic Corps;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor for me to join you all today in the commemoration of the 66 th Leyte Gulf Landings. As I stand on these shores for today's ceremony, let me first of all pay my greatest tribute to all those who had fought and fallen, and express our heartfelt apologies and deep sense of remorse over the damages caused by the Japanese military in the Philippines during World War II. Let me also state that after the war, Japan was reborn as a peace-loving nation, and that post-war Japan has been determined not to allow the terrible lessons of the war to erode, and to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world.
In this context, I have been deeply moved by the noble spirit of reconciliation and the sense of fairness on the part of the Filipino people: indeed, the Filipino people have been appreciating Japan as we are now, a peace-loving nation that shares the fundamental values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights, and have been taking a future-oriented attitude with a view to deepening the friendly relations between our two countries.
This year, 2010, is the 54th year since the normalization of diplomatic relations between our two countries, and as declared in the Joint Statement titled “Fostering A Strategic Partnership for the Future between Close Neighbors” which was issued by the two governments in June last year, we have seen the expansion of our cooperative areas not only in trade, investment and economic cooperation but also on political issues, security, peace building in Mindanao, as well as cultural and human exchanges.
A good example of our partnership is Japan's initiatives for the Mindanao Peace Process, including the implementation of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development, which we call J-BIRD . This is a testimony to Japan's strong conviction to contribute actively to the peace process by assisting those in need in former conflict-affected areas, and, by paving the way for poverty reduction through this and other initiatives, to help achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao.
Needless to say, ODA and cooperation in the trade and investment field will continue to play important roles in our cooperation. The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA, which entered into force two years ago, has opened a new era of the strong ties between our two countries, and brings our partnership to a higher level. While the worldwide financial crisis is still affecting our two countries, Japan, being the largest ODA donor and one of the largest partners in trade and investment to the Philippines, intends to continue cooperating in Philippines' nation-building efforts, as a true friend and a close neighbor. I am confident that by working more closely together, our two countries, sharing the fundamental values of democracy, freedom and respect for human rights, will attain our common goals and ultimately bring about peace and prosperity for all.
Thank you very much for your attention.