MANILA — With more than 3,000 Filipino beneficiaries and counting, the Japan Embassy in Manila is hopeful that their youth exchange program, Jenesys, will be able to outlast another decade and continue to harness the relationship between Japan and the Philippines.
In an interview at the sidelines of the Jenesys-Kizuna Alumni Get-Together on Sunday, Takehiro Kano, minister and deputy chief of mission from the Japan Embassy, said the program, spanning over 10 years, had been “successful.”
“Many youth from the Philippines and other ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, they had firsthand, updated information and picture of the Japanese society,” Kano said.
Kano believes that through people-to-people exchanges, youth from the region obtains enough understanding of what is going on in Japan, a gain he said may serve as a “catalyst” in the future to further boost ties. “It’s a unique opportunity,” he added.
“It’s difficult to quantify achievement but it’s immeasurable achievement that we’ve made so far.”
The heart of the program is to encourage the youth in Japan and ASEAN countries to know each others by experiencing jointly the culture, sports and various aspect of each other’s nation.
Since its inception in 2007, the Jenesys program has brought Filipino students, youth leaders, young professionals, medical practitioners, artists, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, science and technology enthusiasts, teachers, football players, peace building advocates, young public servants, among others to visit the different prefectures in Japan.
Together with other activities like institutional visits, educational tours, lectures and homestay with Japanese families, participants were allowed to immerse themselves with the Japanese way of life for ten days.
The Jenesys partnership between the National Youth Commission (NYC) and the Japanese government started in 2008.
During the same interview, NYC Assistant Secretary Paul Pangilinan expressed gratitude for the opportunity the Japanese government offered to the Filipino youth.
“Jenesys is not just a cultural exposure, it also promote mutual understanding between the Japanese young people and Filipino youth,” he said.
According to Kano, the program’s continuity will depend on the availability of funds by the Japanese government but they are hoping to continue the initiative for another decade.
“In terms of the number of the people, I think 3,000 Filipinos had a chance to get to Japan in the last ten years making it a very successful program,” he said.
Kano is positive that the youth exchange somehow provided share in what President Rodrigo R. Duterte now calls Golden Age of Strategic Partnership between the two countries.
In 2017, he said visitors from the Philippines to Japan reached at least 430,000 and around 584,000 from Japan to the Philippines.
“I think Jenesys is playing some part in these growing number of people-to-people exchange, so we hope this will continue,” Kano said.