Philippines-US relations

US-Japan-PH trilateral relationship can survive leadership changes, says Manalo

Bea Cupin

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US-Japan-PH trilateral relationship can survive leadership changes, says Manalo

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. attends with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (right) and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo the trilateral summit with US President Joe Biden and Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio at the White House in Washington DC, April 11, 2024.

Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS

The Philippines' foreign secretary says regularity - in meetings and engagement with different officials and the private sector - is key to sustaining the relationship

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo is “confident” that the newly-launched trilateral relationship between the United States, Japan, and the Philippines can survive changes in leadership because it’s a relationship rooted in “similar views and interests.”

“I’m confident because we share similar views and interests. I don’t think any administration would change that in the sense that if you read the opening, it’s that we’re all committed to free and open trade, free and open navigation, and commitment to democracy,” said Manalo in an interview for Rappler’s World View that aired Friday, May 3.

Rappler editor-at-large Marites Vitug asked if the newly-formed three-way relationship would push through even if the United States, or even the Philippines, sees a change in leadership. 

On November 5, the United States will hold a presidential election. US President Joe Biden is gunning for a second term as the Democrat Party’s bet, while former president Donald Trump, twice-impeached in the past and facing several criminal charges, is seeking a return to the White House as the Republican Party’s nominee. 

The Philippines is set to hold a presidential election in 2028 yet.

It’s under Biden and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that US and Philippine ties have grown exponentially – on hyper-drive, as Manalo himself has put it. The trilateral relationship was formalized during an April 11 leaders’ summit in the White House, hosted by the United States.

Prior to the leaders’ meeting, top officials of the three countries – from trade to defense – had met at least once in the past. 

The relationship is seen as key for all three countries as China grows more aggressive in the region.

Japan and the Philippines, both treaty-allies of the United States, have had to face Chinese aggression in the East China Sea and South China Sea, respectively. The Philippines and Japan are also strategic partners. 

Under Marcos, the Philippines has forged new ties and built on existing relationship with other nations, especially when it comes to security and the economy. 

But there are worries that US-Philippines bilateral ties, the new trilateral relationship, and the growing US-Japan-Philippines-Australia relationship could encounter hiccups should Trump return to Washington. 

“I can’t speculate on that, but at least, at this stage, as you could see from the vision statement, which essentially was almost 90% concerning economic cooperation and projects. The idea, of course, it’s important to ensure that some of these activities take off soon. And I think that can only be done through some form of regular meetings,” said Manalo, asked about those concerns. 

“I won’t say institutionalizing it, but I would say that there has to be a regular meeting, and of course, this should be done at expert levels or senior official levels. I think we are already beginning; in fact, we will be meeting on that, and it would involve not only the political agencies but even our, most especially, our economic departments — Department of Trade, Energy, and Natural Resources. So, all of these would have to come into play,” he added. 

Manalo has headed the Department of Foreign Affairs since day one of the Marcos administration. 

Visit this page to watch the full interview beginning 6 pm on Friday, May 3. – 

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.