MANILA, Philippines — Visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa underscored Japan’s intention to strengthen cooperation with the Philippines as its strategic partner for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” citing numerous challenges including “unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force.”

Hayashi met yesterday with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and expressed gratitude to the Philippines for serving as co-chair of the Japan-Philippines High Level Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation.

Dominguez and Hayashi also welcomed the finalization and publication of the Subic Bay Regional Development Master Plan.

Hayashi cited the importance of close coordination between Japan and the Philippines especially in infrastructure development, COVID-19 response, and socioeconomic assistance for Mindanao.

In response, Dominguez expressed his deep appreciation for Japan’s expeditious fulfillment of the development master plan for Subic, its support for the “Build, Build, Build” large-scale infrastructure development program of the Duterte administration, and assistance to Philippines’ response to COVID-19.

Technical assistance for the formulation of a regional development master plan for Subic Bay commenced after the Japan–Philippines Summit Meeting in November 2019.

Dominguez also discussed with Hayashi the recent liberalization of restrictions on foreign investment to the Philippines.

They also exchanged views on the situation in Ukraine. Hayashi pointed out that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine constitutes an outright violation of international law and jeopardizes the foundation of international order.

Dominguez stated that the Philippines voted in favor of resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly condemning Russia’s aggression.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Philippines and India are exploring the establishment of a maritime dialogue forum this year.

Locsin and Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar came up with the plan after a meeting on Sunday in New Delhi. Locsin is on an official visit to India from April 23 to 26.

He also took part in the 7th Edition of the Raisina Dialogue, India’s premier conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, first organized in 2016.

The two ministers also exchanged views on regional and international developments, particularly on the Ukraine crisis, the situation in Myanmar, and the South China Sea issue.

“When we met in February, you said that the Philippines is a ‘natural partner for India’s Act East Policy.’ We too, see India as a natural partner for navigating our increasingly complex regional and global security situation,” Locsin said.

“The Philippines and India are two of Asia’s largest and most vibrant democracies. We share a common aspiration for an international order based on liberty, the rule of law, and commitment to socio-economic development,” he added.

In 2019, trade between the Philippines and India reached a high of $2.4 billion, with exports to India reaching $545.5 million, and imports at $1.83 billion. The figures slightly dipped in 2020 and in the first three quarters of 2021 to $2.19 billion and $2.17 billion, respectively, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are approximately 1,300 Filipinos working and residing in India, while there are more than 120,000 Indian nationals in the Philippines.

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