June 25, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Trilateral summit strengthens WPS, defense economic partnership among US, Japan, PH

LEADERS of the House of Representatives on Sunday lauded the successful first trilateral summit among US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.

Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr., Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. David “Jay-jay” Suarez, and Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” M. Dalipe said the positive results of the meeting would have far-reaching impact on the economic development and peace, security, and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

“We are hopeful about the peace and economic gains that we will surely realize from this historic engagement of President Biden, Prime Minister Kishida and President BBM,” they said.

Gonzales said he particularly welcomes the decision of the three leaders to launch the Luzon Economic Corridor, which would support the connectivity of Subic Freeport, Clark Freeport, Metro Manila, and Batangas.

“This project will immensely benefit our region, our province Pampanga in particular, the National Capital Region and Southern Luzon. It will create additional job and income opportunities for our people,” he said.

He said President Biden, PM Kishida, and President Marcos issued after their April 11 summit, the US and Japan commitment 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.”

The Vision Statement noted that Japan has long been supporting connectivity in this area, including rails and roads, through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). 

Gonzales noted that the US, Japan and PH leaders committed to “work with multilateral organizations and the private sector to attract quality, transformative investments” in the Luzon Economic Corridor, and to hold a trilateral conference promoting investments in this area.

They declared in their joint statement that the Luzon Economic Corridor “is a demonstration of our enhanced economic cooperation, focused on delivering tangible investments across multiple sectors.”

The leaders also vowed “to expand cooperation and investments in other areas of the Philippines.”

Suarez said the first trilateral summit among the leaders of the three nations “boosted our defense of our sovereign, and maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea and our national territory in general.”

He said President Biden reaffirmed the “ironclad US alliance commitments to both Japan and the Philippines, which have helped safeguard peace and security in the Indo-Pacific for decades.”

He said the three leaders underscored “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.”

He noted that the summit participants expressed their “serious concerns” over China’s “dangerous and aggressive behavior in the South China Sea” and the “militarization of reclaimed features and unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea.”

They likewise expressed their opposition to the “dangerous and coercive use of Coast Guard and militia vessels…as well as efforts to disrupt other countries’ offshore resource exploitation,” Suarez said.

He said the leaders also opposed China’s “repeated obstruction of Philippine vessels’ exercise of high seas freedom of navigation and the disruption of supply lines to Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal), which constitute dangerous and destabilizing conduct.”

The leaders reaffirmed that Ayunging Shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, as determined by in the “final and legally binding” ruling on July 12, 2016 of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

They urged China “to abide by the ruling.”

The leaders also expressed concern over China’s aggressive behavior in the East China Sea, where China and Japan are similarly contesting certain islets and maritime areas.

For his part, Dalipe said Beijing should listen to the three leaders’ Vision Statement.

“We cannot understand why China continues to pursue an aggressive approach in dealing with its neighbors in the vast South China Sea, when it can shift to a live-and-let-live tack,” he said.

He said it is clear that Ayungin Shoal off Palawan in the south and Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc near Zambales and Pangalinan in the north are part of the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

He added that these sea features, and some islets occupied by Beijing in the West Philippine Sea, are hundreds of miles away from the Chinese mainland.

Following the US, Japan and Philippine leaders’ summit declarations, Dalipe urged China to stop entering the EEZs of the Philippines and neighboring countries.

He also called on President Marcos to consider starting oil and gas exploration in Recto Bank, which is believed to hold natural gas deposits much larger than that in Malampaya.

Dalipe said Malampaya, which supplies much of the fuel needs of power plants in Luzon, is projected to dry up in a few years.

When that happens, the country may have to import natural gas and crude oil, which may be more expensive and may result in increased electricity cost, he said.

Gonzales, Suarez, and Dalipe also noted the benefits of expanded security and economic cooperation among the US, Japan and the Philippines.

They likewise welcomed the decision of President Biden to include $128 million in funding for infrastructure projects and activities in EDCA sites.

This spending would certain result in more job and income opportunities for our people in these nine EDCA areas, they said.

The nine sites are Antonio Bautista Air Base and Balabac Island in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumba Air Base in Cagayan de Oro City, Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu, Naval Base Camilo Osiers, and La-lo Airport in Cagayan, and Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Isabela.(