September 6, 2023
MANILA – The United States and Japan — both key allies of the Philippines in its maritime dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea — have sought a meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the 43rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.
“We’re all allies, basically Japan, the United States and the Philippines. So I’m sure, obviously, the West Philippine Sea will most likely be part of the discussion, but mostly in cooperation, and how Japan, the United States, and the Philippines will work together, especially in the area of economic security, which is also very important for us,” Jose Manuel “Babes∏ Romualdez, the Philippine ambassador to the US, told reporters on Tuesday.
Japan and the US requested the meeting, but it was not certain whether the meeting would push through due to scheduling conflicts, Romualdez said.
He explained that US Vice President Kamala Harris would only be in Jakarta for one whole day. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s schedule was also tight.
“We’re not sure that’s going to happen. However, they will see each other of course tomorrow and at the gala dinner. So hopefully something along those lines, or in that time frame, they’ll be able to meet,” Romualdez said.
The maritime dispute with China would not be the only topic of discussion, he pointed out.
“The economic cooperation between our countries, between the two countries with the Philippines is also very important for us. So the president was very eager to have that meeting. However, as I said, it is still being worked out,” Romualdez said.
China had taken bolder steps in asserting its claim in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, actions which both Japan and the US have denounced.
In August, China attacked the Philippine Coast Guard with a water cannon while it was on a supply run to the BRP Sierra Madre — a ship that was intentionally run aground at Ayungin Shoal to serve as a military outpost.
Instead of issuing an apology, China doubled down on its claim and insisted that the Philippines had promised to remove the BRP Sierra Madre.
The Philippines had repeatedly denied these claims, and China did not produce any evidence of such a promise either.
Marcos even said that should any promise exist, he rescinded it.
China had recently reiterated its claim in the South China Sea with a new map that featured a 10-dash line, expanding its territorial claim to include Taiwan and most of the West Philippine Sea.