PH-Japan-US summit underscores need to resolve SCS issue via diplomacy

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

April 5, 2024, 2:45 pm

MANILA – The Philippines’ historic summit with the United States (US) and Japan will serve as an avenue to highlight the importance of diplomacy in addressing the South China Sea (SCS) issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.

DFA Acting Deputy Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Hans Mohaimin Siriban said the recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would be discussed in the first trilateral summit.

“We can expect an alignment of views among the three countries on the recent incidents in the West Philippine Sea. Of course, we will continue to call on peace and stability and the recent incidents be solved in a peaceful and diplomatic manner,” Sibiran said in a pre-departure briefing with Palace reporters.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will meet with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington on April 11 to discuss a wide range of issues, including the three nations’ economic and security cooperation.

Siriban said Marcos, Biden, and Kishida are expected to include in their joint vision statement the issues surrounding the SCS.

He said the Marcos administration is optimistic that its trilateral cooperation with the US and Japan will capacitate the Philippines in terms of more training on maritime security and capacity-building, as well as open more opportunities to explore cooperation on defense equipment.

“It really is an integrated package, integrated suite of projects that will help enhance our capability to be interoperable with our partners, with our allies and that is our hope — that this will help promote a more conducive environment to allow our people to travel and do their livelihoods in our seas,” Siriban said.

Siriban also underscored the Philippines’ firm stance to uphold international rules-based order.

The Philippines, he added, appreciates the support it is getting from the US, Japan, and many countries, as it asserts the United Nations Conventions on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling on the SCS.

“So, I think the trilateral summit reinforces the importance of keeping peace and stability in the region, and to always resolve the issues through dialogue and diplomacy,” Siriban said.

Siriban, however, clarified that the Philippines’ trilateral cooperation with the US and Japan is “not directed at any country,” saying the Marcos administration is “always open” to lines of communications with any countries.

“So, this applies to all the countries in the region. In fact, we have continuing dialogues with our neighbors. This trilateral summit is one of those dialogues and consultation that we have. So, our lines of communication are always open and we keep on engaging and we will keep on engaging on our all the relevant stakeholders in the region,” he said.

Economic resilience

Siriban also emphasized that the Philippines’ primary focus is to build economic resilience by strengthening its economic cooperation with the US and Japan.

He said the trilateral summit is a “natural progression of the three parties’ existing robust, excellent bilateral cooperation, enduring friendship and alliance, shared values, shared interests and shared respect for the rules-based international order.”

Siriban said Marcos is expected to discuss with Biden and Kishida the three countries’ common vision for the Indo-Pacific Region, as well as explore opportunities to enhance their trilateral cooperation across various areas of mutual interest.

“These areas include inclusive economic growth, developing critical and emerging technologies, climate change cooperation and clean energy supply chains and promoting peace and security in the region,” Siriban said.

“This trilateral cooperation aims to add value to the existing and prospective areas of work especially in the economy and economic security in order to amplify and sustain the momentum of growth in the Philippines and the resilience of the Filipino people,” he added.

Sideline meetings

Siriban said Marcos will also hold a bilateral meeting with Biden on the sidelines of the trilateral summit to discuss the progress on the Philippines and US’ ties and cooperation.

“Of course, they will discuss more bilateral issues, including of course one of the main objectives of the President would be on economic cooperation, economic security,” he said. “There will also be discussions on our security cooperation and we expect these conversations which were raised in previous meetings to continue.”

Siriban said Marcos is also expected to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and American business leaders during his trip to the US. (PNA)