Philippine President Aquino visits Hiroshima for the first time

by Michiko Tanaka and Moe Nishimura, Staff Writers

Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III visited Hiroshima for the first time on June 24 and gave a speech at the Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao (COP6), a conference designed to discuss the peace process on the island of Mindanao, located in the southern Philippines. Until a peace agreement was recently made, conflict between the Philippine government and Islamic insurgents had raged on Mindanao for more than 40 years. President Aquino addressed the stakeholders at the meeting, saying, “Those of us who are in a position to make decisions must remember what happened here in Hiroshima, and in Nagasaki.” He continued, “If we falter, it is the innocent who will pay the ultimate price.” He also laid flowers at the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims, located in Naka Ward.

At the start of his speech, Mr. Aquino referred to the destruction caused by the atomic bomb and said, “It is therefore fitting that we gathered in this city consecrated to the principle of the preservation of peace, to discuss how the combatants of yesterday can become partners for the avoidance of future conflict.” He asked the participants to follow the path of dialogue and negotiation to achieve mutual understanding, justice, and prosperity.

The Philippine president also reflected on negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with which the government concluded a comprehensive peace agreement in March, and thanked the Japanese government for its support of the peace process by hosting a secret meeting between the two sides in 2011.

After attending the COP6 conference, Mr. Aquino visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and offered a silent prayer in front of the cenotaph. He also toured Peace Memorial Museum, guided by Kenji Shiga, the museum director, and gazed at the belongings of the A-bomb victims and a panoramic model which shows the state of the city in the aftermath of the atomic bombing. He wrote in the guest book, in English, that the museum is a reminder of the tragedy that can occur if conflict persists. He also met with Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki.

COP6 was jointly organized by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Universiti Sains Malaysia. The conference will close on June 25, after adopting the Hiroshima Declaration.

(Originally published on June 25, 2014)