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Opinion

Phl, US, Japan triangle

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

The historic trilateral summit held in Washington among the Philippines, the United States and Japan certainly wasn’t planned overnight but it wasn’t designed too long ago, either.

A source in the Marcos administration already revealed last week’s summit to me as early as last month, weeks before the announcement.

On Monday night, I sat down with a team from the embassy of Japan in Manila led by its Minister for Economic Affairs Nihei Daisuke to discuss the outcome of the historic summit and exchange views on the trilateral alliance.

It is important to note that, as Nihei-san pointed out, the summit is the culmination of decades of partnership.

Separately, in my discussions with government sources, I surmise that the meeting at the White House of President Marcos, President Biden and Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was planned just a couple of months ago, starting last year.

We can easily guess why. It’s largely because of the growing concerns about China’s increased aggression in the South China Sea.

The joint vision statement from the leaders of the three countries explicitly said so.

Below are excerpts:

“We underscore our nations” unwavering commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight, and the importance of respecting the sovereign rights of states within their exclusive economic zones consistent with international law, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“We express our serious concerns about the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s dangerous and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. We are also concerned by the militarization of reclaimed features and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea. We steadfastly oppose the dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea, as well as efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation. We reiterate serious concern over the PRC’s repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal, which constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct. The final and legally binding July 12, 2016 Arbitral Tribunal determined that this feature lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and we call on the PRC to abide by the ruling.

“We express our serious concerns regarding the situation in the East China Sea, and reiterate our strong opposition to any attempts by the PRC to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion in the East China Sea, including through actions that seek to undermine Japan’s longstanding and peaceful administration of the Senkaku Islands.

“We affirm the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity, recognize that there is no change in our basic positions on Taiwan, and call for a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues,” according to the joint statement.

Of course, it’s not just about China but the bigger picture shows that the new trilateral cooperation would translate to billions of dollars in investments for the Philippines from both the US and Japan aimed at strengthening our military and economic capabilities in the face of the growing tensions in the South China Sea.

Luzon Economic Corridor

It’s difficult to squeeze in one column the many points of the vision statement following the Summit so for now I would put the spotlight on the so-called Luzon Economic Corridor, which I believe would be especially beneficial for the Philippines.

This economic corridor will support connectivity between Subic Bay, Clark, Manila and Batangas in the Philippines. It’s high time this happens.

“Through this corridor, part of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment-IPEF Accelerator, Japan, the Philippines and the United States commit to accelerating coordinated investments in high-impact infrastructure projects, including rail; ports modernization; clean energy and semiconductor supply chains and deployments; agribusiness and civilian port upgrades at Subic Bay,” it said.

Rails and roads

I’ve always pushed for connectivity, which is why I especially welcome this development.

Japan itself, as we know, has long been supporting road and rail projects in the Philippines aimed at connecting our islands and our people.

Aside from these existing projects, there could be more Japan-backed infrastructure projects in the Philippines, says Nihei-san during a sumptuous dinner of Japanese cuisine which, by the way, included three generous servings of my favorite uni which I described in jest as “trilateral uni.”

Indeed, he said, Japan has consistently supported projects in the Philippines, including our rails and roads.

“The US International Development Finance Corporation also intends to open a regional office in the Philippines to facilitate further investments across the Philippines. The Luzon Corridor is a demonstration of our enhanced economic cooperation, focused on delivering tangible investments across multiple sectors. Japan, the Philippines and the United States are also partnering to expand cooperation and investments in other areas of the Philippines,” the joint statement also said.

I am optimistic about this new trilateral chapter between our country and the two nations, Japan and the Philippines, especially in light of new global challenges, including the challenges in the South China Sea.

When partners come together to advance democratic institutions, the rule of law, respect for human rights and human dignity, we can only go forward and help create better societies for succeeding generations.

*      *      *

Email: [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen (Iris Gonzales) on Facebook.

vuukle comment

MARCOS JR.

US

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