Aquino Urges Help for Ailing Economy

By Brian Covert
Staff Writer

KOBE — Former Philippine President Corazon Aquino praised the course of political action under her successor, Fidel Ramos, but said it is her country’s economic crisis that now needs urgent attention by Japan and other Asian nations.

“There is political stability now, so the important problem to address is that of the economy,” Aquino said in an interview here with the MDN.

“It will greatly help the economic situation if more investors would come to the Philippines and go into labor-intensive industries,” she continued. “I am glad that with the opening of the Subic Naval Base (for development) that more foreigners — especially from Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong — are interested.”

The course of Japan-Philippine relations, both on the governmental and non-governmental level, will remain steady in the years ahead, predicted Aquino, the former Philippine president who rose to her position in 1986 on a wave of “people power” that ousted the corrupt administration of the late Ferdinand Marcos.

“Relations between Japan and the Philippines have always been good, and during my administration Japan was the No. 1 donor country to the Philippines,” Aquino said. “I’m very grateful that the Japanese government and people have always been the first to help, especially in the time of natural calamities like the earthquake and the Mount Pinatubo eruption.”

On a stickier issue between the two countries — the movement of Filipinas into the Japanese night entertainment industry — Aquino called for both governments to set up a joint commission to investigate, in part, why it has been so much easier for Filipino women to get visas into Japan than for Filipino businessmen.

“It would be very helpful if the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines would be very careful in giving visas,” she said. “We cannot understand why it’s so difficult to get visas here. When I was president, legitimate businessmen would complain about their difficulty in getting visas, and yet, a number of women could just get visas and come here.

“So I think if both the Japanese government and the Philippine government work on this, I’m sure we will be able to arrive at an agreeable and desirable solution.”

Today marks the end of Aquino’s four-day visit to the Kansai area, during which she attended an international family-care conference in Ashiya and met with that city’s first woman mayor in Japan, Harue Kitamura.

During a packed reception Friday at the Kobe Club here hosted by residents of the Kansai’s Philippine community, Aquino jokingly mentioned how much international traveling she had done since retiring from her post — something she had little time for while president because she had to constantly be on guard for coup attempts on her government.