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A Friend Unlike Any Other

In public service, one should not do things for recognition or accolades. Serving the country is already an honor and a privilege. Plaques, awards and decorations should not be the principal motivation for doing one’s best for the benefit of our people. But a public servant should be always grateful when recognized for excellence. Recognitions serve as inspiration to hard working and deserving government officials who sacrifice their time and talent for the greater good.


I remember when I was still in government I would almost feel embarrassed when a group or organization would give an award or a commendation. I thought to myself, this is my job, no, this is my vocation. But I also realized that these accolades provide public servants with inspiration and further motivation to continue doing great work for the country. You should not do your job to get an award but be grateful for those who recognize hard work.


And just a couple of weeks ago, I was deeply honored and thankful when I was informed that the Japanese government has decided to confer to me the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun. The Order of the Rising Sun was the first national decoration awarded by the Japanese government starting in 1875. I was truly humbled by their recognition of my efforts to promote and “strengthen the bilateral economic relations” between the Philippines and Japan during my time in government.



When I was President of the Senate, we ratified the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) which was the first bilateral free trade agreement of the Philippines. It was signed in Helsinki, Finland on Sept. 9, 2006, we ratified it on Oct. 8, 2008 and it officially entered into force on Dec. 11, 2008. Since the ratification of the JPEPA, Japan has become the Philippines’ top trading partner and source of investments. They have been the Philippines’ biggest source of bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) and has also been a leading partner in modernizing our infrastructure.



This meaningful partnership has also led to the provision of life-saving equipment adopted by the Japan’s Self-Defence Forces to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Just to drive home the significance of this support, this is the first time Tokyo has offered SDF equipment to a foreign armed force using its official development assistance (ODA).



We also ratified the “Protocol Amending the Convention Between Japan and the Republic of the Philippines for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Income Taxes”, and as a senator I supported the ratification of the Agreement on Technical Cooperation Between the Government of Japan and the Republic of the Philippines, adopted into a Senate Resolution in March 2011.



I express my deep gratitude to the government and people of Japan for this eminent decoration. This comes at a time when the relationship between our two countries is blossoming. This is due, in part, to the deep history of diplomatic relations between our nations which is the bedrock of the mutual respect between our peoples that has survived the challenges of the times. We are on the 66th year of the full restoration of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Japan but the history of our friendship dates back to the 16th century.



This recognition is very special to me because it comes from a friend who has always supported us, treated us with the respect, and recognized us as an equal in the community of sovereign nations. Japan will always be our friend and I am certain that this friendship will endure as it has for centuries. Our “common goals of ensuring peace and stability, promoting economic growth, and human security” bind our two countries and our peoples as we continue to face global challenges.



Japan  is, as President Digong put it, “a friend closer than a brother…(and) a friend unlike any other.”



Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar