Govt forms panel to look into Manila ‘comfort women’ statue

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The statue that commemorates Filipino comfort women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II stands on Roxas Boulevard. A message on the status 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." (photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

MANILA — The Department of Foreign Affairs 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 Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano made the announcement Friday, a day after presidential spokesman Harry Roque said no action would be taken by Malacañang regarding the statue despite Tokyo’s objection.

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

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.”

Roque said the statue was not an issue for President Rodrigo Duterte to get involved in, downplaying concern it could hurt ties with Japan.

Cayetano said his department was never consulted about the project approved by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. The monument was built just a few blocks from the DFA headquarters.