The Daily Manila Shimbun


DFA says only Japanese remains verified through DNA analysis to be repatriated to Japan

October 11, 2018

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assured on Thursday only verified remains of Japanese soldiers who perished in the Philippines during World War II will be repatriated to Japan. The DFA made the statement as the Japanese government, in coordination with the Philippine authorities, has resumed the bone recovery project in the country after it was stopped in 2010 due to some controversies. "Only Japanese remains verified through DNA analysis and cleared by the Philippine Government will be allowed to be cremated for repatriation to Japan," the Foreign Affairs department told the Manila Shimbun. It said Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare officials, accompanied by forensic anthropologists and experts from the National Museum of the Philippines and the National Bureau of Investigation, would survey areas in Luzon from October 9 to 17 to locate and verify Japanese remains. "Samples of previously collected remains currently still in Philippine Government custody will also be subjected to DNA analysis," the DFA said. Tens of boxes containing bones of alleged Japanese soldiers have been kept at the NMP in Manila. The boxes of bones were collected by the Japanese non-profit organization, which Tokyo commissioned until the bone collection project was stopped in the last quarter of 2010 due to alleged looting of sacred burial places of the indigenous peoples in Oriental Mindoro and Ifugao. The NPO men allegedly hired locals to collect the bones in those burial places to pass them off as that of the Japanese soldiers' remains. There were also reports in the past that a public cemetery in Visayas was also looted. Due to the alleged irregularity in the implementation of the bone collection project, MHLW conducted in 2011 an investigation, including the forensic anthropological analysis of the bones, which were initially kept in Subic, Zambales and Camp Crame police headquarters in Quezon City. The probe found that "many" of the bones belonged to women and children and were still new, meaning the persons to which the bones belonged died within the past 20 years. Another finding was that of the 110 pieces of bones that underwent mitochondrial DNA test, "only five" resembled Japanese-type of bones, while majority or 52 seemed to be of Filipino-type, and 44 could not be determined. As a result of the investigation, Japan had admitted there was a "high possibility" most of the bones were collected were not Japanese. With the resumption of the project, the DFA said, "The Japanese Government hopes to locate and recover the remains of about 370,000 of Japanese who perished in the Philippines during the war, taking into consideration the desire of aging family members still waiting for their return." Last May 2018, the Philippines and Japan concluded a memorandum of cooperation governing the humanitarian repatriation of the remains of WWII Japanese soldiers in the Philippines. "This agreement and the rules and procedures emanating from it are meant to provide safeguards even as both sides work together to resume the collection, handling, storage, and shipment of these remains. The emphasis is on fully respecting Philippine laws, including the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, as the relevant projects are undertaken," it said. Celerina Monte/DMS