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Philippines and US intend to hold ‘2-plus-2’ meeting in March, envoy says

MANILA – The Philippines and the United States intend to hold a “2-plus-2 meeting” of top diplomatic and defence officials in Manila in March, the Philippine ambassador to Washington said on Monday.

In a phone message, Jose Manuel G. Romualdez confirmed a Nikkei report citing sources on the discussions. He said there is an “intention” to hold a meeting, and the plan is “still a work in progress.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are expected to meet with counterparts Enrique A. Manalo and Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. in March, the first of such dialogue in the Philippines since the format began in 2012, Nikkei reported.

Romualdez did not respond to a question on what will be the agenda of the planned meeting, which comes at a time of simmering tensions between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea.

The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States.

There was no immediate comment from the Philippines’ defense secretary, the Philippine foreign ministry and the US State Department. A spokesperson at the US embassy in Manila said they had nothing to announce at this time.

The top foreign and defense officials of the United States and the Philippines met in Washington in April, resuming high-level dialogues after a seven-year halt that underlined moves by Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s government to reaffirm ties strained by his predecessor’s anti-US stance. — Reuters

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