TOKYO — President Rodrigo Duterte’s unique style of leadership has caught the fancy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and evoked awe among the Japanese who strongly value the virtue of honor.
Most people of Japan are “fascinated” by the Chief Executive and see him not as controversial but “interesting.”
Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel cited the President’s baffling cult-like following in the Philippines and said he had “never seen this kind of leadership since Magsaysay,” referring to the late President Ramon Magsaysay who was dubbed “Champion of the Masses” because of programs he implemented to better the lives of the underprivileged.
Such leadership aura draws most Japanese to the Philippine President, he said.
“They are always fascinated with the kind of leadership that is recognized, affirmed by their own people and at the same time has tremendous political will insofar as his programs are concerned. So, he is not controversial but interesting. It’s one of a kind for the Japanese,” Laurel said in a briefing yesterday.
“The Japanese see him (Mr. Duterte) not as controversial but interesting with his quality of leadership,” he continued.
This is why the Chief Executive was extended an invitation to deliver a keynote speech at the 25th Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia slated later this week.
“You see, this is the first time and I can tell you this because I’ve been in politics myself. And if you ask me, I’ve been an observer of Philippine politics for the longest time, longer than most probably most of you. This person, if he says it, he will do it. The first time I have seen this kind of leadership since Magsaysay,” stated Laurel.
‘Grafted’ by past leaders
He went on by lamenting how, in the post-World War II era, the Philippines had reparations from the Japanese government but had been “dissipated and grafted” by leaders.
But major changes have taken place under the Duterte administration and Laurel particularly admires the Chief Executive’s unrelenting fight against graft and corruption.
“This President has been able to move the economy with trickle down effects,” he said.
“I haven’t seen or had a whiff… It was only now that I’ve seen a leader angry at thieves.
Now, part of the public money has been put to the subway (project). Do you have any idea how much it cost to build a subway? It will take 10 years,” he added.
Laurel was talking about the Duterte administration’s ambitious P357 billion Metro Manila Subway project that has already broken ground last February.
Japan’s involvement with the project is through a consortium of Japanese and Filipino firms that will build the first phase of the subway system utilizing its state-of-the-art technologies and expertise from years of railway experience in its design, construction and operation stages.
The said project, according to the diplomat, is one example of how the people’s money is being put to work for their benefit.
Skilled hands wanted
Laurel added Filipino skilled workers are mostly in demand when it comes to “imported” manpower in Japan, and more are expected to be given employment opportunities on the last quarter of the year.
The diplomat bared that before 2019 ends, some additional 50,000 “legitimate foreign workers” are expected to enter the East Asian nation to join the workforce.
Last November, the Japanese government implemented new rules and regulations regarding foreign workers seeking employment within its borders. Qualified foreigners are given special visas specific to their areas of expertise.
“What are the requirements? The rules and regulations are basic. Your purpose here is to be legitimized. You have to understand, speak, read and write Japanese,” Laurel said.
“Example, if you’re a caregiver, it is very important that you read (Japanese). Why? If you can’t read it, if you’re given a prescription, you wouldn’t know if poison was given to you. Am I right? That’s the reason,” he added.
A big bulk of the job opportunities are in the fields of manufacturing, information technology, caregiving and nursing, hospital and restaurant management.
Caregivers from the Philippines, especially the women, are in high demand not just because of their skills but also for their “gentle touch” in taking care of their patients, especially the elderly.
Japan’s aging population prompted the need for more caregivers as its youth “are not encouraged to have more children” who are supposed to look after the elderly.
“The way our people care for the elderly is very outstanding insofar as, you know, making them feel better and for them to get well,” stated Laurel.
Linking with Nagoya
When it comes to manufacturing, Laurel said the government is mulling opening a consulate in Nagoya which is Japan’s manufacturing hub.
According to the official, besides Toyota, major car and technology companies, as well as those from other industries are headquartered there.
“So, what is that to the Filipino? It will mean that they can get good jobs in manufacturing. That is why we are also opening a new consulate in Nagoya. It is planned, it has been budgeted,” Laurel said.
“Why in Nagoya? Because that is a manufacturing center. It is not only Toyota. The entire gamut of manufacturing in Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsubishi Motors, Noritake and the other industries are located there. So, everybody is going there,” he added.
Laurel shared that the starting salary of those employed in the manufacturing sector is pegged at $3,500, more or less.
“That’s roughly about P175,000. And you are just trying to be a painter or a specialist in trying to put turbos,” said Laurel.
At present, there are a total of 285,000 Filipinos living and working in Japan.
Stronger military ties
Japan’s assistance with regards to the Duterte administration’s effort to modernize the Armed Forces and its involvement in the push for the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea is not just because of its stepped-up defense cooperation with the Philippines, but is also about protecting their economic interest.
The two countries’ military ties have been steadily accelerating in recent years, with Japan providing equipment like ships and airplanes, jet planes and helicopters.
It has also helped in upgrading the Philippines’ information collection by giving commercial radars that will track commercial aircrafts to as far as 150 nautical miles.
To follow are radars which can also pinpoint military crafts.
“Well, you must remember that because we are very intimate friends, Japan greatly also depends on the Philippines,” Laurel said.
According to him, Japan’s aid in the upgrading of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ military’s assets is also brought by its need to protect its economic interests, particularly in delivering goods from its shores to other parts of the world via the sea route.
“Japan is a trading country. It survives on selling their manufactured goods to the world. They have to keep the shipping lanes open. Their only way out is towards the south. Keep the East Indian Ocean alive and get to Europe. If they want to get to the States, then they have to travel towards the west coast of the United States,” the diplomat stated.
This, said Laurel, is why Japan is helping beef up the Philippines’ defense to help address concerns at sea, particularly piracy and will support the country in its needs regarding security.
“You remember the Coast Guard ships, the 10? What about the jet planes, the helicopters that they gave? Why is it that they gave us these? The reason basically is of the piracy in the Malacca Strait and the Sulu Sea,” Laurel bared.