President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over the 34th Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañang Palace on Feb. 6. — RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte left for Japan on Tuesday afternoon to attend the Nikkei 25th International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo, Malacañang said.
The President, according to a list released by the Palace on Tuesday morning, would be accompanied by at least 16 Cabinet officials.
In an interview with reporters in Japan, hours before the President’s expected arrival, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel said the trip to Tokyo could be Mr. Duterte’s “reward” to his men as he was “elated” by the results of the 2019 midterm elections.
Malacañang emailed to reporters the transcript of the interview on Tuesday afternoon.
“You know, you ask me personally what is [the] purpose? Ito’y pabuya sa nakaraang election (This is a reward for the previous elections). Why do you bring  Cabinet members here pati ang [including] local government [officials] or land reform [officials]? Wala naman land reform dito. Tapos na, nandoon sa atin (There is no land reform here. It is over. The land reform is there in our country),” he said.
He added: “But I think the President is so elated with the results-of the midterm elections, that this is an affirmation of his administration in the last three years. Iyan ang katotohanan (that is the truth).”
The ambassador continued, “Parang pabuya na, ‘Salamat ha (It is like a reward to say ‘thank you’), you’ve done your jobs.’”
The Palace said the President would be accompanied by the following officials: Secretaries Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. of the Department of Foreign Affairs; Carlos G. Dominguez III of the Department of Finance; Emmanuel F. Piñol of the Department of Agriculture; Mark A. Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways; Karlo Alexei B. Nograles of the Office of the Cabinet Secretary; Ramon M. Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry; Bernadette Romulo-Puyat of the Department of Tourism; Arthur P. Tugade of the Department of Transportation; Fortunato T. Dela Peña of the Department of Science and Technology; Alfonso G. Cusi of the Department of Energy; Eliseo M. Rio, Jr., of the Department of Information and Communications Technology; Ernesto M. Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority; Jose Ruperto Martin M. Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office; Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., of the National Security Council; Salvador S. Panelo of the Office of the President; and Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.
According to Mr. Laurel, a delegation of 200 (“Aba’y ang balita ko’y dalawang daan eh.”) will accompany Mr. Duterte.
The Palace also said Mr. Duterte will speak before the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia upon the invitation of Nikkei, Inc.
“The President’s address will highlight Philippine development goals and accomplishments, foreign policy thrusts, and insights on regional and global developments,” the Palace statement said.
“This annual gathering, regarded as one of Asia’s top foreign policy and economic fora, also includes leaders of Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Bangladesh in its lineup of speakers.”
In Mr. Duterte’s meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the two leaders will “discuss cooperation in infrastructure development, trade and investments, agriculture, labor, defense, maritime security and maritime domain awareness, people-to-people exchanges, and the pursuit of just and lasting peace and progress in Mindanao.”