MANILA – The Philippine government said on Tuesday that talks on the possible trilateral security partnership with Japan and the United States are in the works but still in “very early stages.”
On the sidelines of a policy talk in Tokyo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Manila has already conducted “some trilateral activities” with Japan and the US in the Sulu Sea but the detailed scope of the partnership itself is still yet to be established.
“[T]here was an understanding that we should explore the possibility of trilateral arrangements, but at this stage, we still have to discuss the Terms of Reference, what kind of activities, so it’s really very much in the early stages,” he said.
“The important thing is there is an understanding of the principle that it would be useful to have such types of trilateral cooperation activities,” he added.
In a bilateral meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, the two officials agreed to steadily implement all Philippine-Japan cooperation projects, be it bilaterally, multilaterally or trilaterally with the United States.
The two ministers also affirmed to work closely on regional issues, including the South China Sea, economic coercion, the situation in Ukraine, and dealing with North Korea, including nuclear and missile, and abduction issues.
Aside from security, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said both diplomats discussed economic cooperation, with Hayashi reiterating Japan’s intention to actively support the Philippines to reach the upper middle-income status.
“In response, Secretary Manalo expressed deep appreciation for the assistance from Japan for the Philippine economic development, and the two ministers concurred on continued cooperation,” the MOFA said.
The meeting followed the official visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in Tokyo last February where he and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed to strengthen the overall security cooperation between the two states through strategic reciprocal port calls and aircraft visits, transfer of more defense equipment and technology, and continuous cooperation on previously-transferred defense equipment, among others.
According to Manalo, there has been “steady progress” on the two states’ defense equipment transfer project. (PNA)