Ambassador Joey: Living up to the Laurel legacy

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Jose C. Laurel V was recently awarded the 42nd Medal of Merit for Outstanding Achievement in the Promotion of Philippines-Japan Relations by the Philippines-Japan Society, Inc. Last Dec. 9, 2022, the government of Japan conferred on Ambassador Jose C. Laurel V, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (First Class), an imperial decoration presented by the government of Japan for his lifelong work and service resulting in close friendly relations between the Philippines and Japan.

Ambassador Joey, as he is better known to his friends, served as Philippine Ambassador to Japan from 2017 to 2022.

Philippine-Japan relations has become an extremely critical role in our nation’s foreign relations. Japan is our country’s second largest trade partner. Unknown to most people, it is even more important to acknowledge that Japan is the largest source of official development assistance or foreign aid to the Philippines. It ranks higher than the United States and China in terms of bilateral official development assistance (ODA).

In recent years, Japan has also become a major tourist destination for Filipinos. Aside from proximity to our country, Filipinos have also fallen in love with Japanese cuisine. It is also one of the oldest civilizations in the world and has a beautiful and diverse history. The scenery is also stunning with mountains and breathtaking views. In recent years, it has also become a favorite destination for overseas Filipino workers.

Ambassador Joey has been recognized for many major accomplishments during his tenure as ambassador. He was able to establish very close working ties with Japan which contributed to upholding the Philippine security, defense and anti-terrorism capabilities.

He was also very active in the supervision of large-scale projects involving Japanese corporations and the Japanese government. One of his paramount successes in this area is the Metro Manila subway project, which has been a long anticipated dream of those living in the Metro Manila region. This project, when completed, is expected to be the main solution towards solving the traffic congestion and the lack of transportation in the area.

During his term as ambassador, he successfully managed one state visit to Japan of President Duterte in 2019 and three working visits.  There was also the official visit of the Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

Other noteworthy achievements were the improvement and expansion of Philippine-Japan strategic partnership covering business alliances, official development aid, joint research projects, academic scholarships and people-to-people interactions and the promotion of economic relations and cultural exchanges between the two countries.

It was also during his tenure that additional platforms for bilateral dialogue were created.  There were wide-ranging topics in these dialogues such as on industries, technology, politics, natural disaster risk reduction management and history.

During his ambassadorial term, one major accomplishment was to increase the number of flights between the Philippines and Japan through Air Asia Philippines and Cebu Pacific.

Another accomplishment was the receipt and turnover of donations and aid from Japan to the Philippines for victims of natural disaster.

Ambassador Joey hails from a family that has built and nurtured an enduring bond with Japan. His grandfather Jose P. Laurel was the president of the Second Philippine Republic. His father Jose Laurel III was the only Filipino to graduate from the Imperial Military Academy of Japan in 1937. He served as Philippine Ambassador to Japan from 1965 to 1971.  He also organized the Philippines-Japan Society and various friendship associations.

At the height of the Marcos martial law regime, Jose C. Laurel V was only one of two opposition governors that won when he became governor of Batangas from 1980-1988. In recognition of this outstanding achievement, the Philippine Jaycees named him one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardees for public administration in 1983.

The following year, he was given the Outstanding Young Person of the World Award for public administration by the Jaycees International.

I personally remember that I first heard of Joey Laurel in my high school days when he won the Voice of Democracy nationwide oratorical contest.

He obtained a double degree in business administration and social studies (LIA-COM) from De La Salle College, now De La Salle University, in 1967. He pursued his master’s in business administration in the same institution.

Aside from his activities in public service, Joey has also been active in the business world. He was chairman of the executive committee of YKK Philippines and chairman of Toyota, Batangas City.

His four children are Ramon Jose, the popular designer Rajo Laurel, Venisse, John, Angela.

Ambassador Joey has truly lived up to the illustrious legacy of the Laurel name.

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