– 4 hours ago
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Wednesday invited Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to become the first foreign leader to speak before a joint session of Congress during his upcoming trip to Manila.
“We also are very glad to know that you will be making an official visit to the Philippines very soon. In this regard, on behalf of my chamber, I would like to make your visit more special and invite you to address both houses of Congress in a joint session if possible,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said.
He and 10 other senators met this week with Japanese leaders led by Kishida in Tokyo during an official parliamentary visit to fortify what they described as the two countries’ “strategic partnership” in maintaining stability in the region, mainly to address the heightened tension in the West Philippine Sea.“On a daily basis, our Philippine Coast Guard records cases of harassment from foreign actors, which is depriving our country of its sovereign right to use its exclusive economic zone,” Zubiri said in a statement.He added that the country was grateful for Japan’s strong support for the 2016 Arbitration Ruling and for providing the Philippines with modern ships and other equipment such as radars to monitor the skies and seas.“This visit, particularly the briefing from the Ministry of Defense, has given us a clearer understanding of the current defense and security realities facing both our nations,” Zubiri said.“With almost half of the Senate here with us, we hope to show to you the importance that we accord to our strategic partnership,” he said.
The other senators present were Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, JV Ejercito, Sonny Angara, Imee Marcos, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Lito Lapid and Mark Villar.According to Zubiri, their visit “comes at an opportune time right when the strategic partnership between the Philippines and Japan is evolving to even higher levels, as we adapt to the heightened global security situation, particularly the continuing maritime tensions, in our region.”
—WITH A REPORT FROM DAPHNE GALVEZ