A statue of a Filipina comfort woman, recently unveiled in Manila, is causing a diplomatic row with the Japanese.
The seven-foot monument commemorates the suffering of thousands of women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War Two.
The bronze statue was unveiled early last week on the intersection of Roxas Boulevard and Quirino Avenue. The ceremony received widespread coverage in the Chinese press, but little attention domestically.
Now, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has sent an urgent letter to city authorities asking who gave the go-ahead for the statue.
The letter, marked “extremely urgent” and sent by Assistant Secretary Millicient Cruz-Paredes, reads: “Taking into account the sensitive nature of the comfort woman issue both domestically and bilaterally, with Japan, the Department requests for background information regarding the monument, including the process of erecting such monuments, and the circumstances that led to the erection of the ‘Comfort Woman’ statue.”
Later, in an interview with The Inquirer, city administrator Jojo Alcovendaz said: “The deputy chief of mission of the Japanese Embassy also went City Hall to inquire about the statue.”
He also clarified that it was the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) that allowed the Tulay Foundation — a Manila-based group of Chinese-Filipinos — to erect the statue.
The foundation requested a space for the statue three years ago. “The city’s main role here was to provide them with a place where they can unveil the statue.
“We told them to get the necessary approval from the different national government agencies because this has international implications. But since the NHCP was involved, I thought the national government already approved it,” he said.
Alcovendaz said the city government would await the DFA’s on what to do with the statue.
Even decades after the end of the war, the issue of comfort women remains a sensitive diplomatic issue for the Japanese.
Just last month, the Japanese city of Osaka cut its “sister city” ties with San Francisco, which has also erected a sculpture in memory of comfort women in one of its parks.