The State Visit to Japan
State visits should not be frowned upon. They are the strongest expression of friendly bilateral relations between two nations and characterized by official public ceremonies. They are an affirmation of the decades-old bonds between two sovereign states from which relations are cemented and developed further.
The state visit of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Japan from February 8 to 12, which I joined as part of the high-level private sector delegation, is a smashing success, based on the numerous commercial deals and defense and political arrangements signed between the two Asian nations.
I want to focus on the financial and investment deals forged during Mr. Marcos’s visit to Japan. The list is quite long but I will cite some of them based on their immediate impact on Philippine economic growth and job creation.
The Philippines and Japan signed 34 investment agreements worth about $13 billion, comprising of closed deals and prospective ones. The Philippines can expect more investment deals and pledges in the coming months, depending on the results of discussions from a large business forum during the President’s state visit that gathered 80 Filipino businessmen and 300 Japanese companies.
Japanese investments aside, Tokyo is the Philippines’s biggest source of cheap official development assistance funds. Mr. Marcos’s official visit resulted in the signing of several loan agreements and extensions for Philippine infrastructure projects, including a $3-billion exchange of notes to finance major commuter rail projects.
The official funding covers the construction of the North-South Commuter Railway and its extension, also known as the Clark-Calamba Railway, a 147-kilometer stretch that is now under construction. This infrastructure project is a game changer that will bolster our economic expansion in the near future. It aims to improve connectivity within the Greater Manila Area and integrate Luzon’s railway network.
The Philippine railway network is probably one of the most underdeveloped in Asia—an anomaly in a modernizing economy as reflected in daily traffic jams in the metropolis. I am pleased to learn that the Department of Transportation through Secretary Jaime Bautista and Japan International Cooperation Agency agreed to plan three to four more underground railway systems in Metro Manila that will extend all the way to Cavite province.
President Marcos’s state visit, as I have mentioned earlier, led to many commercial and investment agreements. Investment pledges include those in manufacturing, infrastructure development, energy, transportation, health care and renewable energy. They followed the first meeting between President Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo.
To name a few, the business agreements include a wiring harness manufacturing expansion project with Asti Corp.; a printer manufacturing expansion project with Brother Industries Ltd.; a hotel construction project with DoubleDragon Corp. and Iwata Chizaki Inc.; and a factory expansion project with Japan Tobacco Inc.
Also included in the list are a new factory for auto parts with Kurabe Industrial Co, Ltd.; energy, transportation, health care and afforestation projects with Marubeni Corp.; an automobile manufacturing expansion project and a commitment renewal to meet production targets with Mitsubishi Motors Corp.
Mitsubishi Corp., one of Japan’s sogo sosha, expressed interest in Philippine infrastructure, transportation, commercial and residential real estate development and mass housing projects in the Philippines.
My own Villar Group is expanding its partnership with Mitsubishi Estate Corp., among the 35 letters of intent and agreement signed during the productive trip. MEC in 2022 entered the Philippine residential market through a partnership with the Villar Group. We have formed a 60:40 joint venture that will develop a mixed-use, high-rise condominium along the Taft University Belt—home to 100,000 collegiate and post-graduate students, faculty members and administrative personnel, and with at least 13 universities and colleges over a four-kilometer stretch.
Agriculture and tourism investments are also among the agreements covered by the state visit. Japan’s prime minister supported the President’s priority agenda to maintain the competitiveness of Philippine agriculture and achieve food security, while increasing farm productivity and farmers’ income.
To sum it up, the results of President Marcos’s Japan’s state visit are encouraging for Philippine business and the ordinary Filipino. It is an occasion for our chief executive to pitch first-hand the Philippine economic success story to foreign investors.