DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Kyodo) -- A ceremony was held Sunday to commemorate the upgrading of the Japanese consular office in Davao City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao to a consulate general.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who attended the ceremony, quipped, "I always wanted to visit the capital city of Durian," referring to the local fruit. "The establishment of the consulate general was a good excuse."
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Ebrahim Murad, chairman of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also participated.
"Japan has been a consistent supporter of peace in Mindanao and wants to play a part in the future," Kono said.
Tokyo hopes that the presence of a consulate general in Davao will help strengthen bilateral relations amid the Mindanao peace process and the territorial row in the South China Sea.
According to Consul General Yoshiaki Miwa, the first batch of Japanese settlers landed in Davao in 1903, and about 20,000 Japanese were residing there in the prewar peak. Even today Davao is home to many Filipinos of Japanese descent.
China opened a consulate general in Davao in October last year.