The Japanese government conferred to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Domingo Albert the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold, and Silver Star for her contribution to the Philippines-Japan economic relations.

The imperial award is given to select individuals who, through their work in various fields, have made contributions towards enhancing the friendship and mutual understanding between the Filipino and Japanese people.

“It is worth noting that she is one of the very first recipients of this award in the new Reiwa era of Japan,” Japan Ambassador to Manila Koji Haneda said during the awarding ceremony at his residence in Makati City on Wednesday night.

“The list of her contributions to Japan-Philippines relations goes on even after her diplomatic career. Ambassador Albert has continuously supported Japan as a senior advisor of the reputable Sycip Gorres and Velayo (SGV) company,” he said.

One of Albert’s notable works was inviting the Japanese private sectors in the Philippines in the mining industry when she served as Presidential Advisor for Multilateral Cooperation and Development from 2004 to 2005.

Albert first visited Japan in 1962 when she participated in an international students seminar at Tsuda College in Tokyo followed by a workcamp in Awajishima where she worked with the other students on a road that would link the small village of Nigoro to other places in the island.

“It was my first experience not only in physically building a road with a pick and shovel but an opportunity to build a friendship with people from different nationalities and culture,” she said in her speech.

Soon after her return to the Philippines, Albert shared the moment that led her to where she is now — a case she described as being in “the right place, at the right time, with the right people”.

“I was invited to introduce the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Narciso Ramos at the annual Soiree Diplomatique of the University of the Philippines Foreign Service Corps. Because his CV was too short, I introduced him in three languages, English, French, and Japanese,” she shared.

“This prompted the Secretary to engage me on the spot as his Social and Appointments Secretary because, as he said, I could say ‘no’ in different languages and qualify as his cordon sanitaire,” she added.

Soon after, she was already arranging negotiations on the Host Agreement between the Philippines and the Asian Development Bank which had just been founded at the time.

Later in her career, she was also involved in programs to connect the youth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations through the Fukuda Fund, which is now known as the ASEAN Cultural Fund.

“When economic diplomacy became the focus of our foreign policy, we pursued the negotiations for the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement otherwise know as JPEPA which provided the framework for increased bilateral economic relations,” she said.

Albert is the first woman career diplomat to serve as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in Asia. One of her advocacies is promoting women participation not only in diplomacy but especially in the economy.

In support of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s policy of ‘womenomics’, Albert also led a group of Filipino women entrepreneurs to meet with their Japanese counterparts at the ASEAN-Japan Centre during the 26th Global Summit of Women held in Tokyo in 2016. (PNA)