By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:54 am | Friday, May 10th, 2013
Outgoing Sen. Edgardo J. Angara was conferred the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by Emperor Akihito in Tokyo on Thursday, making him the third Filipino to be given what is said to be the highest distinction given by the Japanese government to an individual.
Previous Filipino recipients of the award were the late Carlos P. Romulo, former foreign secretary and president of the United Nations General Assembly; and Alfonso T. Yuchengco, the country’s former ambassador to Japan.
Other known personalities who received the distinction were former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, former United Nations Children’s Fund executive director Carol Bellamy, former British Prime Minister Sir John Major, the late US Sen. Daniel Inouye and former Brookings Institution president Michael H. Armacost.
The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo said Angara was given the recognition for his valuable contributions to “promoting friendly relations and developing economic cooperation between Japan and the Philippines.”
The award was given in simple rites witnessed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the senator’s wife, Gloria, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
The embassy noted that the Order of the Rising Sun was created in April 1875 to recognize individuals with “distinguished achievements in international relations, the promotion of Japanese culture, the preservation of the environment and advances in development and various fields.”
It is awarded in seven classes, with the Grand Cordon that Angara received being the highest class.
Support for PJEPA
The Japanese government recognized Angara’s zealous support for the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA) that came about in 2008 and had served as a strong link to the two countries’ sustained and increasingly dynamic economic engagement.
As a neophyte senator in 1988, Angara played a key role in forming the Philippines-Japan Parliamentarians Association (PJPA) and became its founding president.
He also headed the first PJEPA delegation to visit Japan for meetings with key members of the National Diet and other government officials. Angara is the group’s incumbent secretary general.
“I am deeply honored to receive the distinction of Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese government. Receiving the imperial decoration is itself a rare privilege; that His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Akihito, bestowed it is a supreme honor,” the senator said in an e-mailed statement.
Angara said the award “reflects the dynamic friendship between the Filipino and Japanese people.”
The senator pointed out that Japan was “one of the two most important strategic partners of the Philippines. Japan has consistently been the Philippines’ top export market and largest source of official development assistance. It also is the Philippines’ second-largest source of foreign direct investments.”
He added that ties with Japan “continue to grow stronger through development aid, trade, tourism and cultural and educational exchange” and urged the Philippine government to “continue enhancing our bilateral ties and keeping Japan at the center of our foreign affairs agenda.”
Premio Casa Asia
Angara was also awarded Spain’s Premio Casa Asia in 2010, the first Southeast Asian to win the foreign policy prize.
The Casa Asia Award is an annual recognition of individuals and organizations that either promote relations between the Asia-Pacific region and Spain or advocate human rights in the region.
Casa Asia cited Angara for pushing the annual commemoration of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day on June 30 by authoring Republic Act No. 9187. He is also noted by the body for promoting the Spanish language and culture in the country.
Established in 2001, Casa Asia is a consortium made up of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, through its Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development, the Government of Catalonia and the Barcelona and Madrid City Councils.—With a report from Inquirer Research