MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine government has launched an inter-agency fact-finding group that will look into the monument honoring the Philippine "comfort women" during World War Two, China's Xinhua news agency reported Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as saying on Friday.

Cayetano called the probe in the wake of Japan's opposition to the erection of a seven-feet bronze sculpture that depicts a blindfold, grieving woman in Maria Clara traditional Filipiniana gown that stands along a public promenade in Manila's busy Roxas Blvd.

Japan wants the Philippines to take down the monument which was unveiled in December.

Cayetano said the fact-finding process on how the statue came about is ongoing. He did not want to disclose the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) position on the issue, but he hinted that the construction of the statue"will really affect certain feelings and relationships."

"I don't think it will be good," Cayetano said, but noted that the DFA's position is "always based on Filipino interest."

Although such interests would sometimes "diverge" in the interest of maintaining good relations with another country, he said the government also "have to deal with the feelings of our people with regard to certain issues."

"That's the context of the DFA's comments. There are no final findings yet from the inter-agency group and I think they are still in the stage of fact-finding who put it up, why did they put it up, here do they put it up, who got the permits," Cayetano said.

He said the DFA was not consulted when the statue was conceptualised and erected.

Aside from the DFA, the other members of the government fact-dining group are from the Department of Public Works and Highways, the city government of Manila and the National Historical Commission.

Activists sympathetic to the plight of the former sex slaves urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to ignore Japan's request to remove the statue.

In a meeting with Duterte last Tuesday, Cayetano said Seiko Noda, Japanese Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, expressed concerns and regrets over the monument.

A National Historical Commission official said the Philippine memorial symbolises Filipino women who suffered abuses during the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945.


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