By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

TRILATERAL MEET. Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (2nd from left), US State Secretary Antony Blinken (5th from left), and Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko (seated, 2nd from right)) convene the 2nd trilateral ministerial meeting among the Philippines, the US, and Japan on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York on Saturday (Sept. 23, 2023). The trilateral meeting among the three countries aims to explore ways to further promote peace and stability in the Indo Pacific. (Photo courtesy of Secretary Manalo)

MANILA – The Philippines, the United States, and Japan will craft a “work plan” that would advance their trilateral cooperation, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday as the three states explore ways to further promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, US State Secretary Antony Blinken, and Japanese Foreign Minister Kamikawa Yoko convened the 2nd trilateral ministerial meeting among the three states on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23.

DFA Spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said the ministers “will come up with a work plan” after discussing possible activities under the trilateral cooperation.

The US State Department said the officials also agreed to “continue to call out behavior that is inconsistent with international law,” including China’s recent actions near Ayungin Shoal that interfered with the Philippines’ lawful exercise of high seas freedom of navigation.”

On the security cooperation, the ministers sought ways to enhance their countries’ partnership on maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief efforts.

“They committed to uphold our shared values of freedom, democracy, and respect for human rights, and reaffirmed our shared vision, as equal and sovereign partners, for a free and open Indo-Pacific region that upholds international law,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

The three officials also discussed ways to support economic resiliency and enhance engagements on energy, infrastructure, and digital economy issues.

In his remarks, Blinken said the US looks forward to strengthening the partnership ”to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, and also to foster, to strengthen economic resilience, and to promote the common prosperity of our people.”

“I think all three countries believe strongly that our collaboration, not only on a bilateral basis but on a trilateral basis, can produce very positive benefits not only for our countries but also for other countries and partners in the region and beyond,” he said.

Kamikawa, meanwhile, underscored the importance of “multilayered collaboration with allies and like-minded countries” for upholding a rules-based order, especially with what Japan labelled as “recent severe strategic environment” in the region, including the situation in the South China Sea.

The meeting builds on the September trilateral talks among President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., US Vice President Kamala Harris, and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio.

Manalo, Blinken, and former Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa convened the first Philippine-US-Japan ministerial meeting in Jakarta in July.

The US State Department said the three states would continue to meet trilaterally to “enhance this growing relationship and a free and open Indo-Pacific.” (PNA)