Partners for peace, prosperity

On the ninth day of April in 1942, Filipino and American troops surrendered to the Japanese forces in Mount Samat during World War II. It marked the beginning of the infamous Death March, a 106-kilometer trek of about 76,000 prisoners of war to Capas, Tarlac.

What was called the “Fall of Bataan” 82 years ago has given birth to the rise of a strengthened alliance, a fortified bond between the Philippines, United States (US), and Japan.

A shared heritage, history

The commemoration of the Day of Valor in Mount Samat honored the Filipino and American soldiers who fought side-by-side as allies. It reminded the present generation of its debt to the heroes and their noble sacrifice. 

In his message, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. underscored that the Fall of Bataan is a reminder of the Philippines’ singular purpose towards the future as one nation, supported by like-minded allies in this post-war, rules-based international order.

Eighty-two years on, the Chief Executive said, the country is still facing challenges and threats in its sovereign rights which have already caused physical harm to its people.

Tulad ng pinamalas ng ating mga dakilang ninuno, hindi tayo dapat magpasupil at magpaapi, lalo na sa loob ng ating sariling bakuran (Just like what our forefathers did, we should not be subjugated and oppressed, especially within our own backyard),” he pressed.

Marcos added that Filipinos must embody the spirit that made Bataan stand to safeguard the future of the country.

“Ours is a complicated world today, but we must not yield. We must not back down from any, and all challenges that seek to threaten our peace, our honor, and our very existence,” he stated.

The Fall of Bataan in 1942 marked the resurgence of an independent and sovereign Philippines founded by the unbreakable will, unflappable courage, and undying patriotism of the war heroes.

Friendship rising from the ashes of conflict

The friendship between Japan and the Philippines was rebuilt and nurtured from the ashes of conflict which occurred almost eight decades ago. 

Japanese Ambassador Endo Kazuya highlighted that Japan will strive to actualize projects that bolster the maritime domain awareness and maritime law enforcement capabilities of the Philippines. 

“In line with our commitment to create a bright future for both our people, Japan is determined to elevate our bilateral relations to further heights by giving rise to greater opportunities for cooperation in a wider range of areas including people-to-people exchanges, trade and investment, infrastructure building, maritime law enforcement, and defense cooperation,” he said.

As part of its enhanced cooperative efforts with the Philippines, Japan participated in the first ever Multilateral Maritime Cooperative Activity in the West Philippine Sea along with the US and Australia.

Kazuya also reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to maintain and strengthen the rule-based international and maritime order to never allow the devastation of war to be repeated for the sake of present and future generations.

“By upholding the international order based on the rule of law, Japan and the Philippines, together with other like-minded countries, become united partners in building a world founded on peace, harmony, and good will,” he emphasized.

Japan and the Philippines will continue to cooperate fully in ensuring greater progress in times of both crisis and prosperity.

The envoy added that Japan will continue to work with the Philippines to steadily materialize cooperative efforts in the areas of defense, strategic infrastructure, cyber, economic security, and energy.

“Let us seize this moment to reaffirm our commitment as strategic partners, allies, and friends in building a future preserving the peace and prosperity in the region. I believe that this is the best tribute we can offer to the souls of those who passed away in the fighting that took place here 82 years ago,” he further said.

Coming from the shadows of their bitter past, both countries emerged to be partners and friends with mutual respect, trust, and shared values. 

At present, Japan remains as the Philippines major infrastructure development partner. It funds big-ticket projects that will enhance connectivity, attract investments, and create jobs in the Philippines. These include the Metro Manila Subway Project, North-South Commuter Railway, Metro Rail Transit Line-3 Rehabilitation, and Central Luzon Link Expressway.

Iron-clad relationship strengthened by shared sacrifice, courage

For the US and the Philippines, the defeat in 1942 resulted in a feat today. Both countries rebuilt themselves together, and the strengthened bonds evolved into an iron-clad relationship at present.

US Embassy Charge d’ Affaires Robert Ewing shared that the US, the Philippines, and Japan are working together on advancing their priorities to develop their trilateral cooperation.

“Last year, the Philippines, US, and the Japanese coast guards carried out their first trilateral joint exercises. Weeks later, the National Security Advisers of all three nations met together to discuss matters of mutual concerns and areas for cooperation. A few months later, the US Secretary of State, the Philippines’ Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs met to continue that conversation,” he recalled.

The envoy added that the US stands united with the Philippines as friends, partners, and allies, shoulder-to-shoulder in the name of freedom.

In March, US President Joe Biden’s trade mission generated around P1 billion US dollar worth of investments to the Philippines. These are set to create educational and career opportunities for about 30 million Filipinos. 

Some of the investments are the Philippines’ first Electric Mobility Education and Development Center; rolling out of Google Career Certificates in 50 Department of Trade and Industry virtual campuses; and digital financial services and credit and financial literacy training to empower over 10,000 Filipino small business owners.

This week, leaders from the Philippines, US, and Japan meet for the first trilateral leaders’ summit. They will advance a partnership based on deep historical ties, robust economic relationships, and a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

For these three countries whose brotherhood was founded from the heroic deeds in 1942, it is vital that they remain committed to the quest for prosperity and peace. The sacrifices made 82 years ago during the Fall of Bataan and the Death March remain as the very foundation of their strengthened bonds.(CLJD/JLDC- PIA 3)

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