Conference Calls for Citizenship for Second generation Nikkei Filipinos [2007/07/18]
More than 200 Filipinos of Japanese descent
attended the conference
On May 19th and 20th, in Manila, the Philippines, the 8th annual Filipino-Japanese Conference, was held, focusing for the first time on the question of Japanese citizenship for second generation Philippine nikkei as its primary theme. The conference was jointly organized by the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center (PNLSC) and the Federation of Nikkei-jin Kai Philippines, Inc. (FNKP).
Today, 60 years after World War II, second generation Filipinos of Japanese descent are reaching their golden years. In light of this fact, Mr. Hiroyuki Kawai, speaking for the PNLSC, said, “the Japanese and Philippine governments need to work together to build a system granting them citizenship, as was done with similar orphans left behind in China.”
“The Nippon Foundation would like to provide its full support for this initiative,” said Takeju Ogata, President of the Nippon Foundation, in his opening speech. “Japan’s peace and prosperity are founded in part on the sacrifices of Philippine Nikkei.”
The fathers of most of these people were originally pre-war immigrants to the country who were then drafted into the Japanese military when it occupied the Philippines during World War II. Many of these men died during the war, but following the Japan’s defeat, those who survived were forcefully dispossessed of their property and repatriated to Japan. The wives and children left behind lived secluded in the mountainous regions of the Philippines. Most of them lost (or in many cases destroyed) any documentation tying them to Japan.
The conference this year was attended by more than 200 second generation Philippine Nikkei, representing 13 chapters of the FNKP from across the Philippines. FNKP Chairman Carlos Teraoka commented, “Philippine nikkei left behind following the war have been called exiles, abandoned by Japan, their homeland.” He pointed out that second generation Philippine Japanese are ageing, and that their numbers are falling each year. He called for progress in granting citizenship and prompt assistance to such people, saying, “These people need to be recognized as Japanese citizens while they’re still alive.”
Danilo C. Almeda, Head of the Alien Registration Division of the Philippine’ Bureau of Immigration and a guest at the conference, described the Philippines’ positive stance on the matter of dual citizenship. “If these people are recognized as Japanese citizens,” he said, “their rights as Filipinos, including the right to own land, can then be protected by appropriate measures.”
At a press conference held during the conference, Mr. Kawai called for the Japanese government to also adopt a progressive posture on this issue, as it had with orphans of Japanese descent left behind in China, touching on a case currently being tried in the Tokyo Family Court. “Honestly, the court’s view seems overly cautious to me,” he said. “I hope the case yields a positive and concrete judgment soon. In the end, however, we need to construct a new system.”
In cooperation with the PNLSC and the FNKP, the Nippon Foundation has striven since August 2006 to help restore Filipinos of Japanese descent to family registers. Its goal is to restore the family registers of 500 people over a period of three years. Through the Japan Legal Support Center, it has also provided aid to orphans of Japanese descent left behind in China and Sakhalin, thus far successfully backing 1,250 Japanese orphans left behind in China, in bids to obtain Japanese citizenship.