MANILA - Vietnam and the Philippines have forged a strategic partnership and jointly asked China to stop what they believe are its illegal activities in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
This was in the joint statement of President Aquino and visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
In his speech, Prime Minister Dung affirmed his country’s commitment to strengthen relations with the Philippines especially on matters of defense, maritime and security cooperation.
Dung said he and Aquino have common concerns on the situation in the South China Sea and asked China to stop its illegal activities.
‘With regard to the situation in the East Sea, the President and I shared the deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situation caused by China’s many actions that violate the international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and seriously infringing on the waters across our countries.
"In particular, China’s illegal placement of the oil rig and deployment of vessels to protect the rig deep into Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone, have seriously threatened peace, stability, maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.
"The two sides are determined to oppose China’s violations and called on countries and the international community to continue strongly condemning China and demanding China to immediately end its violations and fully, strictly observe the international law, the 1982 UNCLOS, the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and make efforts for the early achievement the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC).”
'STRATEGIC SECURITY PARTNERSHIP'
Aquino, for his part, announced a strategic partnership with Vietnam on defense and security and suppressing illegal activities.
“In defense and security, we discussed how we can enhance confidence building, our defense capabilities, and interoperability in addressing security challenges. I believe that continued cooperation with Vietnam, as well as with other members of ASEAN, in defense and security will only contribute to promoting regional stability.
"It is not an overstatement when I say that I look forward to increased collaboration between our respective defense agencies. Might I also add that both our nations are looking forward to jointly determining the prerequisites in forging a roadmap towards a strategic partnership.”
Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said that this visit shouldn’t be viewed as the Philippines and Vietnam joining forces against China--one of the world’s largest economies.
“No, that’s not the proper context to it. The Prime Minister is also here for the WEF [World Economic Forum] so we are… We certainly have a commonality with respect to our dispute with China. But again, this is an issue that has been tackled with the ASEAN as a whole, where certain statements have been made before the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting. So hindi naman siguro tama na ‘yun ‘yong konteksto ng pagmi-meeting nila,” he said.
As this developed, Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared to warn some Asian nations on Wednesday about strengthening military alliances to counter China, saying this would not benefit regional security.
But he also pledged to peacefully resolve China's disputes over territory, which have intensified in recent years, especially in the South and East China Seas.
"To beef up military alliances targeted at a third party is not conducive to maintaining common security in the region," Xi said in a speech, following a period when some Asian countries sought to reaffirm their security ties with Washington.
During a visit to Asia last month, U.S. President Barack Obama also sought to reassure allies such as Japan and the Philippines that his long-promised strategic shift towards Asia and the Pacific, widely seen as aimed at countering China's rising influence, was real.
Xi made his remarks at a regional conference in Shanghai in front of Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan, as well as representatives from the Philippines, Japan and more than 40 other countries and organisations.
Dung is on a working visit to Manila to attend the World Economic Forum which Manila is hosting this week.
Dung was accorded foyer honors, made to sign the Palace guest book, paid a courtesy call on Aquino, and then had an expanded bilateral meeting with Aquino.
Each leader was accompanied by their officials. Aquino was accompanied by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Management Staff Director General Julia Abad, Philippine Ambassador to Vietnam Jerril Santos, Defense Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretaries Henry Bernsurto and Minda Cruz. Dung will also be feted with a dinner.
TRIBUTE TO VIETNAM
In that dinner, Aquino made a toast in Dung’s honor and paid tribute to Vietnam’s resiliency in fighting for its interests.
“Mr. Prime Minister, as I conveyed to you and our colleagues in the most recent ASEAN Summit in Myanmar: if an injustice is done to one, is it not true that it sets the stage for injustice done to all? Therefore, is it not our task, as leaders of ASEAN, to continue to find ways to strengthen our relations and build the mechanisms that will ensure fairness and justice throughout our region? The courage and strength that the government of Vietnam has demonstrated in protecting the interest of its people, despite the many challenges you face, have only been a source of inspiration for the peoples of ASEAN, as we work towards building a more secure, more prosperous, more equitable Southeast Asia.”
Dung reciprocated by concurring with Aquino’s stand for intensified cooperation.
“We highly value the bilateral talks we had today, which testifies to the resolve of our two countries to successfully implement the action plan for 2011-2016. We have decided to elevate bilateral ties to a higher plane with a road map established towards strategic partnership between our two countries in the interest of our people and gather peace, cooperation, and development in the region and the world.On that note, I share and agree with Mr. President that we need to jointly strengthen cooperation bilaterally in ASEAN and in the regional and international frameworks for the goal and for the united and strong ASEAN.”
Dung arrived as tensions between China, Vietnam and the Philippines rise as each assert their claims on the South China Sea.
Riots torched Chinese factories in Vietnam following the collision of Vietnamese and Chinese ships amid the discovery of a Chinese oil rig in the Paracel Islands that Vietnam claims.
The Philippines has protested China’s land reclamation in the Mabini or Johnson South Reef, their obstruction of a Philippine ship that aimed to restock an outpost on Ayungin or Second Thomas Shoal as well as Chinese activities in the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc and the Spratly or Kalayaan Islands in recent years.
Aquino has denounced the reclamation as a violation of the non-binding Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam established formal diplomatic relations on July 12, 1976, following the end of the Vietnam War.
Vietnam was the Philippines’ 18th trading partner in 2013, with total trade amounting to US$1.33 billion. It plays host to a 6,220-strong Filipino community, as well as several important Filipino companies, including Jollibee, San Miguel Brewery, Liwayway Industrial Food Corp., Ltd, and United Pharma, Inc.
This is the Prime Minister’s second visit to the Philippines, after his Official Visit on August 9 and 10 in 2007. President Aquino undertook a State Visit to Vietnam on October 26 to 27, 2010. This was followed by a return visit by Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang, Vietnam’s Head of State, who conducted his State Visit to the Philippines on October 26 to 28, 2011.