MANILA — The government has begun its preparations for the five-day visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in the Philippines in January next year.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Department of Foreign Affairs has been in constant communication with Japan’s Foreign Ministry and their embassy to finalize the itinerary of the Japanese royal couple.

“Sa kasalukuyan po ay ginagawa na ang mga kinauukulang preparasyon para sa pagdalaw nina Emperor Akihito at Empress Michiko sa susunod na buwan, sa Enero 2016,” Coloma said in a radio interview on government-run Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday.

Coloma said the royal couple’s forthcoming visit would be “historic” noting that the two last visited the country in 1962.

He added that the visit would be more significant since 2016 marks the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Philippines.

Last Friday, the Japanese embassy in Manila formally announced that the imperial couple would be leaving Tokyo on Jan. 26 to embark on a five-day trip to the Philippines upon the invitation of President Benigno Aquino III.

In a statement, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he and the people of Japan felt “immense pleasure” for the royal couple’s visit to Manila, adding that it would “further strengthen the intimate relations of friendship and goodwill” between Japan and the Philippines.

President Aquino was given a royal welcome when he visited the Imperial Palace, the primary residence of Japan’s Emperor, during his state visit in Japan last June.

It was that time the President reiterated his invitation for the royal couple to visit the Philippines. PNA