PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Relations between the Philippines and Cambodia remain strong despite a rift months ago over the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) failure to issue a joint statement on territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippine ambassador in Phnom Penh said.
Ambassador Noe Wong described the two countries' relationship as "excellent."
"Both countries until now are continuing their efforts to strengthen cooperation in areas which are of mutual interest and benefit," he said.
Last July, the 10-member ASEAN failed to come up with a joint statement that mentions the West Philippine Sea issue, allegedly because Cambodia yielded to pressure from China, its closest ally. It was the first time the organization failed to issue a communiqué.
After the Philippines and Vietnam blamed Cambodia, Cambodia's ambassador to the Philippines accused the two countries of engaging in dirty politics. Cambodia's ambassador in Manila has been recalled.
Despite this, Noe said the Philippines and Cambodia continue to hold dialogues and consultations with each other through the Joint Conference on Bilateral Cooperation.
Soon, the two countries will also sign an agreement to fight transnational crimes and terrorism, he added.
"What is left is the formal signing of that memorandum of agreement, and we have agreed to do that immediately after we finish with the ongoing ASEAN Summit and related summits. So I foresee either December or the first quarter of 2013," Wong said.
Cambodia, the ASEAN chair for 2012, is home to about 6,000 Filipinos.
Wong said most Filipinos here are gainfully employed in various sectors, including the garments and textile industry and the academe. Some are members of missionary and civil society organizations.
"We are really proud that we Filipinos are much better here, it's less a headache to me as the ambassador here in Cambodia," he said.