Duterte expresses regret for Shinzo Abe’s resignation, wishes him well

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo visits President Rodrigo Duterte's home in Davao City in 2017. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — President Rodrigo Duterte expressed “much regret” over the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whom he has considered “a true friend closer than a brother.”

Duterte had nothing but kind words for Abe, who stepped down on Friday due to health reasons.

“Through many years of our engagement, I have seen a leader with a bold vision and firm determination to do what was best for his country and our region,” Duterte said in a statement on Saturday.

Duterte noted that the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Japan "flourished" into a strategic partnership during Abe’s term.

He fondly recalled Abe’s visit in his Davao City home in 2017. Abe again met with Duterte in his hometown in 2019, while the Philippine President also flew to Japan for the third and fourth time that year.

“To Prime Minister Abe, I pray for your speedy and full recovery,” said Duterte, who has been pressed to disclose his medical records amid rising concerns about his health.

Malacañang recently shrugged off Duterte’s revelation that his Barrett’s esophagus illness was “nearing” stage one cancer. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it was an old diagnosis, while Duterte announced in 2018 that his biopsy was negative for cancer.

Malacañang maintains that the 75-year-old President is "fit and healthy" for his age and will not hesitate to inform the public about the state of his health in case of serious illness, as mandated by the Constitution.

Abe, the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in history, relinquished his post after two hospital visits this week. He apologized to his constituents for being unable to fulfill his duties due to colitis, a non-curable inflammatory bowel disease.

"For almost eight years I controlled my chronic disease, however, this year in June I had a regular check-up and there was a sign of the disease," Abe said.

"I made a judgment that I should not continue my job as prime minister… I need to fight the disease and need to be treated,” he added.

With reports from CNN International