JAKARTA, Indonesia — A trilateral meeting between the United States, Japan, and the Philippines is in the works this week to discuss several areas of concern, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez recently said.
In a chance interview with the Palace reporters late Wednesday, Romualdez said the three countries requested a meeting on the sidelines of the 43rd ASEAN Summit here.
However, Romualdez said that they are still working out the time slot due to the tight schedules of US Vice President Kamala Harris and a Japanese official.
"The schedules are a bit tight for both Japan and the United States," Romualdez said.
"Vice President Harris just arrived this (Tuesday) evening, and she's having a whole day meeting tomorrow. So they're trying to look for the time," Romualdez added.
If the meeting does push through, Romualdez said that the agenda will likely focus on cooperation between the three countries, especially in the area of economic security.
"We're all allies, basically, Japan, the United States, and the Philippines," Romualdez said. "So I'm sure obviously the West Philippine Sea will most likely be part of the discussion, but mostly on cooperation, and how Japan, the United States, and the Philippines can work together, especially in the area of economic security, which is also very important for us."
The West Philippine Sea is a disputed body of water that the Philippines, China, and several other countries claim. The Philippines has accused China of militarizing the area and of violating its sovereignty.
Romualdez said that the trilateral meeting is important because it will allow the three countries to discuss ways to cooperate on issues of common interest, such as the West Philippine Sea and economic security.
"The importance of that meeting is because of the fact that we've had discussions with both Japan and the United States on many issues surrounding our area, our territorial waters, and, of course, the South China Sea," Romualdez said. "But as I said, the economic cooperation between our three countries between the two countries with the Philippines is also very important for us."
Romualdez also said that he does not think that China will take issue with the trilateral meeting.
"I don't think there's any… It's nothing new that the countries… In meetings like this, in summits like this, there's always a lot of bilateral meetings between so many countries," Romualdez said.
"So there's, it's really nothing to… I know that people are putting meaning into it — a special meaning to do it because of the situation that we're all — the situation in our part of the world, but at the end of the day, it is really a meeting of friends and allies and partners."