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Aquino Ends Japan Visit, Hints of Cabinet Shifts

November 14, 1986|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

TOKYO — Winding up a four-day visit to Japan, Philippine President Corazon Aquino indicated Thursday that she may carry out a major reshuffle of her Cabinet in the near future but said she has no plans to dismiss Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile.

During a luncheon meeting at the Japan National Press Club, she also said promises of aid that she received from Japan--more than 100 billion yen ($625 million) for fiscal 1986--showed not only that the government of Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone strongly supports her administration but looks upon it "in a much better light" than it did the regime of ousted President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

Aquino made no attempt to deny reports in Manila that she and Enrile already had reached agreement over their differences over government officials. As a result, she said, "significant changes" would be carried out in her Cabinet "in the near future."

"I will consider ways to make the government more efficient and responsive to the needs of the people," she said.

When a questioner asked how long she would keep Enrile, "a longstanding enemy of your family," in the Cabinet, she replied, "Minister Enrile is not an enemy of my family.

"While it is true that he signed the orders to arrest my husband (the late Benigno S. Aquino Jr.), many times during the incarceration of my husband it was to him that I would go and ask for certain privileges."

Plans to Keep Enrile

She said she has "no intention" of firing Enrile.

"Since we have so many problems, it is necessary for all of us to continue working together and to contribute all of our best efforts for the greater interest of the Philippines," she added.

Aquino, who returned to Manila Thursday afternoon to find a new crisis over the slaying of a leftist labor leader, made no effort to hide widespread reports of instability during her visit here. She said that twice during her visit that she had received reports from the military chief of staff, Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, "that everything is all right and that we have nothing to worry about." She said she also had talked to Ramos by telephone Wednesday night.

Before she left Manila on Monday, Philippine troops were placed on alert amid rumors of a coup attempt against her nine-month-old government.

Philippine Finance Minister Jaime Ongpin announced that Japan has assured the Philippines of $625 million in aid during fiscal 1986--an amount that Aquino said "far exceeds the assistance given to my predecessor last year."

Lists Japanese Aid

Ongpin enumerated a list of pledges, which included $206.3 million in loans to purchase goods, $259 million to finance construction of a new coal-burning power plant, up to $93.8 million in grants and an unspecified increase in annual development assistance.

In addition, Ongpin said that talks have begun on another $118 million in loans to rehabilitate two power plants and a government-run steel mill and to purchase cargo-handling equipment for Manila harbor.

Despite advance reports that she planned to ask Japan for up to $1.6 billion in aid, Aquino said the new promises "far exceeded my expectations."

As an aid donor to the Philippines, Japan is second only to the United States, which has asked Japan to boost its assistance in a joint effort to support the Aquino government.

Last year, Japan pledged about 50 billion yen ($312.5 million) in loans. U.S. aid totaled $397.2 million in fiscal 1986, which ended Sept. 30, and was projected to reach $453.6 in this fiscal year. All the 1986 aid was in grants except for a loan of $49.4 million.

Emperor's Remarks Clarified

The only note of discord during the visit came after Aquino's spokesman, Teodoro Benigno, told reporters that Emperor Hirohito, 85, during a meeting Monday, "kept apologizing for what the Japanese cost the Philippines during World War II." The emperor said "he wanted Japan to make up for the pain that they caused us," according to Benigno.

The Imperial Household Agency denied that the emperor had said anything about Japan's World War II invasion and occupation of the Philippines.

Aquino herself refused to comment during the luncheon appearance, saying, "Enough has been said on this matter." Foreign Minister Tadashi Kuranari also refused to answer a question about it in Parliament.

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