A series of summit meetings of ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations), ASEAN Plus Three (adding China, Japan and South Korea) and East Asia, which were to be held in Cebu City, the Philippines, from 11 December 2006, were postponed at the last minute to January 2007, because of the concerns on the part of the host government that a typhoon might directly hit the venues. Nevertheless, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Philippines on 8 and 9 December and had meetings with the country's high officials to talk about the Japan-Philippine relations, regional cooperation, the North Korea problem and other issues.
According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan[Japanese], Foreign Minister Aso met his counterpart Dr. Alberto G. Romulo on 8 December and, in the context of economic cooperation for the Philippines, "explained that the preparations have been completed for signing the notes on the remaining projects in the 26th Yen Loan Package and that Japan is considering about the 27th Yen Package as well. He also conveyed very high interest in Japan over what is called 'political killings' of leftist activists and journalists". The press report indicates, "Secretary Romulo explained about the fact-finding efforts by the government of the Philippines".
Another press release reports[Japanese] about a summit meeting between President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Prime Minister Abe, held on 9 December. On the issue of economic cooperation between Japan and the Philippines, "President Arroyo expressed her deep appreciation for the provision of ODA by Japan, which is the largest donor country for the Philippines. She was also glad that the talks over the 27th Yen Package had been started. The Philippines is a country of peace and democracy, which attaches importance to human rights issues as well. She was aware of the concerns over 'political killings' in relation to ODA and expressed her intention to deal with the issue in an appropriate manner under the rule of law".
With regard to the 27th Yen Package, "Prime Minister responded that the government of Japan had lately sent a mission to the Philippines and that the considerations will be undertaken in due course. He also conveyed strong interest in Japan over the human rights situation in the Philippines".
The resultant Japan-Philippine Joint Statement "Partnership between Close Neighbors for Comprehensive Cooperation", issued on 9 December, states under the item of economic cooperation that "[t]he two leaders emphasized the importance of sustaining harmony, upholding democratic values and protecting human rights, as well as preserving the environment and social well being with respect to general governance and to the implementation of the official development assistance".
There have been few cases in which Japanese high officials conveyed explicit "interest" over human rights issues in a country directly when they met their counterparts of the country. This is partly because it may lead to interference into internal matters.
The unusual responses this time may have been triggered by the fact that European governments as well as international NGOs, including Amnesty International and International Commission of Jurists, have expressed concerns about political killings in the Philippines and made international appeals for fact-finding and prevention. Japanese NGOs have also collaborated in collecting signatures and in political lobbying, which resulted in parliamentary discussions in November at the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense and the Special Committee on Official Development Assistance and Other Matters of the House of Councilors.
KARAPATAN, a human rights NGO in the Philippines, has recorded more than 700 killings of leftist farmers, students and community activists as well as journalists after the establishment of the Arroyo Administration in 2001. The government has explained that it is making every effort to find out what has happened, including through the establishment of a special committee of inquiry into a series of killings (the Melo Commission).
* On the human rights oppression in the Philippines [Japanese]
* "Japan pledges Manila loans, but raises human rights", Reuters, 9 December 2006
* Little Progress Has Been Made in Fact-Finding about Political Killings in Philippines (Hurights Osaka News in Brief, October 2006)