January 12, 2018 / 10:55 AM / a year ago

Philippines forms panel to look into new 'comfort women' statue

A memorial statue that commemorates the Filipino "comfort women" who worked in Japanese military brothels during World War II stands erected along a main street of Roxas Boulevard, Metro Manila, Philippines January 12, 2018. A message reads "This monument is in honor of Filipino women who were victims of abuse during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945). A long time has passed before they testified and revealed what they went through". REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine foreign ministry on Friday said a government panel has been formed to look into the fuss over a newly erected “comfort women” monument in Manila that has irked Japan, a major source of aid and investment.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made the announcement a day after President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman said no action would be taken by the presidential palace regarding the statue, despite Tokyo’s objection.

A spokeswoman from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday it was “extremely regrettable” that comfort women statues, including the one in the Philippines, had been erected.

Cayetano said the existence of the monument, which commemorates the 1,000 Filipino women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War Two, “will really affect certain feelings and relationships.”

Duterte’s spokesman on Thursday said the statue was not an issue for the president to get involved in downplaying concern it could hurt ties with Japan.

Cayetano said his department was never consulted about the project approved by a government agency, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). The monument was built just a few blocks from the headquarters of the foreign ministry.

The panel will be composed of representatives from the foreign and public works ministries, the city government of Manila, the capital, and the NHCP.

Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez

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