JICA President Shinichi Kitaoka.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) President Shinichi Kitaoka, during his visit in Palau last week, said he urged the Japanese government to put ‘special attention’ to countries like Palau with regards to their ‘historical and geopolitical’ importance.

President Kitaoka said that with Palau’s economy becoming relatively high, JICA and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had a relatively ‘shared feeling that it will be difficult to strengthen the cooperation with Palau.’

Kitaoka said that Japan had experienced financial difficulty in the past that led to the declining budget of the agency for years in a row. He reiterated however that he wanted this declining trend to change since JICA’s budget had started to gradually grow since he was appointed president of the agency.

The JICA head said that although Palau’s economy is relatively high, special attention should still be given to it because it is facing ‘huge difficulties’ pertaining to distance from market and its small population size.

President Kitaoka said that it was his insistence that Japan should not ‘mechanically” apply the standards of the Official Development Assistance (ODA), a scheme use to measure international aid.

JICA President Kitaoka also divulged that this previous plan was not unique to Palau as Japan’s government also previously eyed the same for high-income countries in Latin America that are receiving their aid.

When asked by the press what specific outcome can be expected from his first visit in Palau given the circumstance that he shared, President Kitaoka said that they will attempt to change the student invitation programs extended to Palau’s graduates in such a way that undergraduates could also benefit from it.

“The student invitation programs have been successful but considering the number of graduates in this country, it is not easy to get the good candidates, so we are trying to change this so that we can accept the undergraduates into the Japanese universities,” Kitaoka said.

He also said that Nippon Foundation, a Japan-based non-government organization, is also already supporting Palau in the area of maritime security which he said is very important to the country.

“We can cooperate with Nippon Foundation and Palau government so that we can take care of the vast area more effectively,” Kitaoka said. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)