January 12, 2017 7:30 am JST

Abe packs $8.66bn aid package for Philippines visit

Japan aims to curb growing Chinese influence on Duterte

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce a 1 trillion yen ($8.66 billion) aid package for the Philippines spread over five years, during his state visit to the country beginning Thursday.

The aid package is one of Japan's largest directed at a single country, a senior government official said. The figure tops the five-year package of roughly 800 billion yen for Myanmar announced last year.

The money combines official development assistance and private-sector investments, which will be directed toward infrastructure projects such as building subways and electric power systems for the country's regional cities. A panel of government officials from both countries will be formed to help carry out the infrastructure investments. Japan also will help establish rehabilitation facilities to support President Rodrigo Duterte's effort to eradicate drug use.

Abe's choice of the Philippines for his first state visit of 2017 reflects Japan's wish to strengthen ties with this year's chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The prime minister, looking to build trust with Duterte, will visit the president's home city of Davao in addition to Manila. Japan's Foreign Ministry says Abe will make the first visit to Davao by any active head of state.

The Japanese leader also aims to prevent China from getting too close to Duterte, who has lashed out continuously against the U.S. Chinese President Xi Jinping welcomed Duterte to the country in October to communicate Beijing's willingness to boost economic support to the Philippines. And in December, Duterte requested loans from the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The Philippine president also weakened his country's stance against Beijing on territorial issues in the South China Sea. In talks with China, Duterte avoided explicitly referencing the U.N.-backed ruling that found China's claims to the South China Sea groundless.

Abe seemingly looks to curb Chinese influence by showcasing his close relationship with Duterte. The prime minister also will visit Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam during his tour from Thursday to Tuesday.

(Nikkei)

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