Emperor Akihito hopes for deepened Japan-PH friendly relations

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Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko escorted by Philippine Army chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City on January 27, 2016.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Japan's Emperor Akihito said Wednesday (January 27) that he hopes his visit to the Philippines with Empress Michiko could help "deepen the mutual understanding and friendly relations" of the two countries.

He said this at the state banquet by Malacañang for the imperial couple on Wednesday evening.

The emperor started his speech with a recollection of his and the empress' first visit to the country 54 years ago. Then a crown prince, he went to the country as the representative of then Emperor Showa.

Emperor Akihito said the warm welcome of Filipinos and the warm smiles of then President Diosdado Macapagal and his first lady remain etched in his memories up to this day. He also recalled his visit to former Philippine president Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Cavite. He said they were able to stand on the historic balcony, where Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence in 1898.

He reiterated that Japanese people must never forget the loss of many Filipino lives during World War II. Emperor Akihito also mentioned some highlights in Philippine and Japan relations throughout history.

Watch: Japan’s Emperor Akihito visits the PH. Why is it significant?

Below is his full speech:

Remarks by His Majesty the Emperor of Japan

at the State Banquet in Honour of Their Majesties at the Malacañang Palace

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the Republic of the Philippines and Japan, it is a great pleasure for the Empress and I to be visiting the Philippines again at the invitation of His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III. I would like to express our profound gratitude to Your Excellency for hosting this banquet for us this evening, and for your most gracious words of welcome.

Our first trip to the Philippines was 54 years ago in November 1962 as a representative of Emperor Showa, to reciprocate the State Visit by His Excellency President Carlos P. García and the First Lady in December 1958. To this day, the memory of the warm smiles we received from His Excellency President Diosdado Pangan Macapagal and the First Lady as they stood by our plane when we arrived at Manila Airport and the warm welcome we received from the people of the Philippines remain deep in our hearts. It was on that visit that we visited General Emilio Aguinaldo and Mrs. Aguinaldo in Cavite, where we stood with them on the balcony from which Philippine independence was declared by the General in 1898, and this still remains an unforgettable memory for us.

The peoples of the Philippines and Japan enjoyed exchanges with each other through commerce since the mid-16th century, when a Japan Town was formed in Manila. In the 17th century, however, the Tokugawa shogunate, which was administering Japan at the time, adopted a policy of national seclusion, forbidding Japanese citizens from traveling overseas and foreign nationals from entering Japan. This marked an end to exchanges between our countries. It would not be until the mid-19th century when Japan ended its policy of national seclusion and started entering into diplomatic relations with other countries that the exchanges between our two countries resumed.

During that time, the Philippines was still under Spanish control, but the people of the Philippines were pursuing independence to free themselves from the rule, heedless of the danger to themselves. One of the foremost activists was Dr. José Rizal, who pressed for independence not with the force of arms but with his writings. Dr. Rizal spent a month and a half in Japan, deepening his understanding of our country and leaving behind his writings in which he envisioned that our two countries would one day engage in a full-fledged relationship. In addition to being a national hero in the Philippines, Dr. Rizal was a pioneer in forging friendly ties between the Philippines and Japan.

Last year Japan marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. During this war, fierce battles between Japan and the United States took place on Philippine soil, resulting in the loss of many Filipino lives and leaving many Filipinos injured. This is something we Japanese must never forget and we intend to keep this engraved in our hearts throughout our visit.

Your Excellency, under your sagacious and distinguished leadership, the Philippines is achieving steady development as a vital member of the Asian community. It was a great privilege to welcome you to Japan as a State Guest in the early summer last year, and the Empress and I have many pleasant memories of your visit.

It is our deepest hope that our visit will contribute to deepen the mutual understanding and friendly relations between the peoples of our two countries.

I would now like to propose a toast to the good health of Your Excellency and Mrs. Aurora Corazon Aquino-Abellada, and to the happiness of the people of the Philippines.