‘Have faith, Duterte will learn diplomacy’
TOKYO—Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte may have rattled some international nerves with his provocative foreign policy declarations, but at least one top diplomat here thinks Filipinos ought to believe in him more.
“We need to have faith in Mr. Duterte,” said Masato Otaka, deputy press secretary and deputy director general for press and public diplomacy of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mofa).
Otaka said the firebrand Davao City mayor, who in the course of his campaign had threatened to cut ties with the United States and Australia and to ride a jet ski and plant a Philippine flag in the disputed Spratly Islands, would eventually learn the careful and measured language of diplomacy.
‘He will do his best’
“He will do his best in learning each of the issues and learning what the real problems are for the Philippines,” the Japanese diplomat told the Inquirer over dinner with foreign journalists on Monday.
Japan’s foreign ministry is hosting the journalists from Asia, Africa and the Middle East to cover the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Mie Prefecture as well as side events on May 26 and 27.
Otaka, who sounded mystified when asked about Duterte’s recent comments, noted that it was the Filipino people who decided to elect him President.
“I think the people of the Philippines chose a new leader. That was their choice. We’re always confident the Filipino people know who’s the right leader for them,” he said.
Foreign ambassadors, including Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa, have been knocking on Duterte’s door to be in his good graces as he emerged as the apparent winner in the May 9 presidential elections.
Ishikawa was the first envoy to pay a courtesy call on Duterte on May 16.
The two engaged in a “very cordial and constructive conversation,” according to another Mofa official privy to the discussions but who asked not to be identified as he could not speak for his agency.
“Through Ambassador Ishikawa, we relayed our congratulations. [The talk centered on how] Japan will seek the enhancement of our relationship,” the official said.
He said the fact that Duterte’s home city had been a beneficiary of Japan’s official development assistance package boded well for the two countries’ relationship. Many Japanese migrants have also contributed to Davao’s economy, prompting its mayor to say recently that Filipinos should learn from the Japanese.
Continuation of ties
The Mofa official said the Japanese ambassador had sought out Duterte to express his hopes for the continuation of Japan’s flourishing ties with the Philippines.
“We really want to continue what has been happening under the Aquino administration,” he said.
Asked to comment on Duterte’s outrageous remarks about some countries, the official deeply familiar with Japan-Philippines’ bilateral relations said he would not dare to try to predict or guess what the incoming President’s foreign policy would look like once he assumes office.