January 29, 2023

Representatives from the Kochi Prefecture in Japan visited Benguet to further strengthen the sisterhood ties between two local governments that span almost five decades.

Gov. Melchor Diclas welcomed the delegation led by Deputy Director of the Department of Culture, Community, and Sports Kouji Yokobatake during their courtesy call and meeting with department heads of agriculture and tourism to discuss further partnerships on Jan. 17.

SISTERHOOD COOPERATION — To enhance the relationship between government units, Benguet province led by Gov. Melchor Diclas met with the delegation from Kochi Prefecture, Japan led by Deputy Director of the Department of Culture, Community, and Sports Kouji Yokobatake (4th from l) during their visit to the province on Jan. 17 to 19. The sisterhood ties between Kochi Prefecture and the Benguet spans four decades and paved the way for many young farmers to be trained on the good agricultural practices of Japan and apply it in the province. — Ofelia Empian

Diclas told journalists they have discussed the long-time program on the young farmer internship exchange with the prefecture, which will soon be expanded.

The program, where around 20 young farmers from the province will be sent to Kochi to learn farming techniques while being employed at the same time, will be lengthened from three to five years.

“This has been an ongoing program with the prefecture where the province will look for farm interns coming from the municipalities to be sent to Kochi,” Diclas said.

The program could be traced years back where several trainees went back to the province to implement the farming techniques they have learned in Japan.

He cited the elevated strawberries being used in local farms, which has been a product of the training that Benguet farmers had in Kochi.

Many of the trainees, who have mastered Nihongo, were also being employed as interpreters in the province during visits of officials from Kochi or other prefectures in Japan.

Aside from Kochi, farmer interns are also brought to Nagano Prefecture under the Japan Agricultural Exchange Council Program.

The Kochi delegation spent three days in the province where they met with heads at the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center, Benguet State University, and at the Kochi-Benguet Sisterhood Park where the Sakura trees were planted in Atok.

Kochi Prefecture also plans to employ caregivers from the province, as well as a student exchange program with BSU.

Joining Yokobatake were staff from the Culture and International Affairs Division Senior Staff Akihisa Ikeda and Coordinator Thomas Cannon.

Also visiting as part of the delegation were Kuroshio Agricultural Development Cooperative President Midori Yoshikawa; Y. Suzuki Nihongo Learning Center President Yosuke Suzuki; and Wonderful International Services, Inc. Vice President Akira Suzuki.

The Kochi-Benguet sisterhood ties will soon reach its 50th year in 2025, which is considered the longest running sisterhood tie of the province with a foreign local government. – Ofelia C. Empian