70 Years after WWII, Issue of Japanese Descendants in the Philippines Still Unresolved Delegation Visits Japan to make Urgent Appeal
Seven representatives of Japanese descendants in the Philippines visited Japan on July 22-23, to request the government’s cooperation in resolving the issue of citizenship for Japanese descendants who remained in the Philippines after the end of World War II. Many are the children of Filipino mothers and Japanese fathers, who emigrated to the Philippines prior to the war but returned to Japan or died during the war, leaving behind their families.
The delegation, accompanied by the Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa and Kenji Kosaka, President of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship League, met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his official residence on July 22, and presented a petition signed by approximately 28,000 people requesting the Japanese government’s urgent assistance in resolving this issue. As he received the petition, the prime minister noted that with the 70th anniversary of the war’s end approaching, it is only natural that these Japanese descendants would want to establish their Japanese identity, and that the government would provide its wholehearted cooperation.
Specifically, the petition requested that the Japanese government work with the Philippine government to compile a register of persons recognized as being second-generation Japanese left behind in the Philippines, and to address related issues including their legal status in the Philippines after obtaining Japanese citizenship. Prior to presenting their petition to the prime minster, the delegation, which was led by Carlos Teraoka and Ines Mallari, the former and current presidents of the Federation of Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai Philippines, INC. attended a special session of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship League and requested that urgent measures be implemented.
Surveys commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1995 have identified 3,545 persons in the Philippines as second-generation Japanese left behind after the war, and of these, 1,058 have been able to establish their father’s identity and obtained Japanese citizenship. Of the remaining 2,487 individuals, 1,288 are already deceased, leaving 1,199 persons for whom this is an urgent issue.
The Nippon Foundation has been working with the Philippine Nikkei-jin Legal Support Center since 2006 to assist with obtaining Japanese citizenship for second-generation Japanese in the Philippines who lost the documents to prove their identity in the chaos after the war, or are otherwise unable to prove their Japanese identity, with the aim of restoring their identity and rights as second-generation Japanese. To date, 157 people have obtained their Japanese citizenship through these efforts, after receiving permission from a family court to create a new family register through a process known as shuseki.
To obtain their Japanese citizenship, the applicant must make a shuseki application during their lifetime, but this also means that with an average age of 76, time is running out for these remaining individuals who need to have their identity verified, but have little if any documentation with which to do so. In addition, a new issue of Philippine residency status emerged in 2014, when a second-generation Japanese man living in the Philippines who had acquired Japanese citizenship left the Philippines to visit Japan, and was ordered by the Philippine immigration authorities to pay a fine for having lived in the Philippines illegally to that point.
At a press conference with the delegation at the Nippon Foundation, chairman Sasakawa stated, “These Japanese descendants in the Philippines are victims of war. It is not right that this issue has remained unresolved for 70 years.”
The Nippon Foundation