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Politics

Philippines marks 75th anniversary of MacArthur's landing

Philippines' National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon (right) is in photo with Australian navy officers in front of Gen. Douglas McArthur 's statue.   © Kyodo

LEYTE, Philippines (Kyodo) -- Events were held Sunday to mark the 75th anniversary of the historic landing by Gen. Douglas McArthur in Leyte Gulf, which marked the start of the campaign to recapture and liberate the Philippines from Japanese occupation.

Officials from the Philippines, United States, Japan and Australia as well as various organizations honored those who fought and died during World War II.

Sunday's main event, headed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon on behalf of President Rodrigo Duterte, dwelt on the values of peace and freedom, then and now.

MacArthur, as commander of the U.S. Army in the Far East, waded ashore onto Leyte Island on Oct. 20, 1944. Less than a year later, Japanese forces, which seized control of the Philippines in 1942, would concede defeat.

"Indeed, the blood, sweat and tears that were shed by Filipino and American troops who fought side by side to reclaim our freedom will become the cornerstone of the democratic way of life that we all enjoy today," Esperon said, reading Duterte's message for the ceremony held at the site where MacArthur arrived.

Reminding "every generation" of its "immense debt" to the American and Filipino fighters who "paid the dreadful price in order to defeat imperialism, regain freedom and restore the peace," John Law, the U.S. Embassy's deputy chief of mission, said, "We can only repay by remembering, as we do today."

Yasushi Yamamoto, charge d'affaires of the Japanese Embassy, expressed his "sincerest condolences to all those" left behind by those who perished in the war.

"We shall not forget that the peace and prosperity we enjoy today was built upon the precious sacrifices of those who have gave their last full measure of devotion," he added.

Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said, "None of the freedoms we enjoy today would have happened without the men and women who were willing to lay down their lives."

Yamamoto reiterated Japan's renouncement of war since that time and its determination to making greater contributions in "promoting peace and prosperity, particularly in Asia," in collaboration with "other like-minded countries."

The officials acknowledged Japan's strong relations at present with the Philippines, as well as with the United States and other countries.

Domestically, Esperon, quoting Duterte, said the Filipino people are still at war, not against the colonial or imperial forces of the past, but against the "menace of criminality, illegal drugs, corruption, poverty, terrorism, and extensive environmental degradation."

"As it was America's moral obligation to defend the Philippines 75 years ago, it is now our moral obligation to eliminate these problems from our society if we are to be a truly free and progressive nation," Esperon said, reading Duterte's message.

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