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Phl, Vietnam to oppose China’s encroachments

President Aquino shakes hands with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung before their joint press conference at Malacañang yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and Vietnam vowed yesterday to oppose China’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, jointly announcing that a strategic partnership is in the works.

Visiting Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said through an interpreter in remarks in Malacañang that his country and the Philippines “are determined to oppose China’s violations” and called on the international community to “strongly condemn” China and demand that Beijing “end its violations and fully, strictly observe” international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

Dung said Beijing should “make efforts for the early achievement of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.”

With regard to the situation in the East Sea, Dung said he and Aquino share “deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situation caused by China’s many actions” that violate the international law and the UNLOS “and seriously infringe on waters across our countries.”

In particular, Dung slammed China’s provocative parking of an oil rig in the East Sea and its deployment of coast guard and naval vessels to protect the rig deep into Vietnam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

Dung stressed China’s action “has seriously threatened peace, stability, maritime security and safety and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.”

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Dung is in Manila for a working visit and to participate in the World Economic Forum on East Asia.

President Aquino and Dung said the two countries were eyeing a strategic partnership in the face of common maritime challenges.

The Philippines has strategic partnerships with the United States and Japan.

“We face common challenges as maritime nations and as brothers in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). I believe continued cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam will enable us to better protect our maritime resources, as we pursue strategies that will redound to the growth of our respective peoples and of our region,” Aquino said.

“In defense and security, we discussed how we can enhance confidence building, our defense capabilities and interoperability in addressing security challenges,” he said. “Cooperation between our navies has been particularly robust, and we took note of recent staff-to-staff talks conducted in Manila in March 2014, where matters pertaining to exchanges in intelligence and naval technology, among many others, were tackled,” Aquino pointed out.

The President expressed belief that continued cooperation with Vietnam as well as with other members of ASEAN in defense and security matters would greatly 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 said.

The President also said he and the Vietnamese leader exchanged views on maritime cooperation as collaborative activities between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Vietnam Coast Guard have increased over the years, to include areas such as oil spill preparedness and response, mechanisms for search and rescue cooperation and mechanisms for information exchange, such as the hotline communication mechanisms between the two coast guards, aimed at protecting marine resources and suppressing illegal activities in waters between the two countries.

 

New call for unity

President Aquino again rallied ASEAN members to unite in dealing with challenges that can potentially disrupt stability in the region, saying an “injustice done to one” can “set the stage” for an injustice to all.

“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?” Aquino said in his toast during the dinner for Dung.

“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,” Aquino said.

Dung, in an earlier press statement with Aquino, said the roadmap for strategic partnership between the two countries would be submitted to high-level leaders of the two sides for approval.

Dung also said Vietnam and the Philippines have agreed to strengthen cooperation to achieve the target of $3 billion in two-way trade by 2016, facilitate businesses and increase connectivity as well as ensure food security.

Aquino thanked Vietnam for helping the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda and disclosed that the two countries had discussed opportunities for tourism cooperation, such as cruise tourism development.

Dung said they would also work on the expansion of cooperation on culture, education, healthcare and science and technology.

 

Strong voice

The Vietnamese leader, during the dinner, said that ASEAN more than ever needs to speak out against acts of intimidation of China.

“More than ever before, ASEAN and the international community need to continue raising a strong voice in protesting against these serious violating actions, securing a strict observance of the international law and peace, stability in the region and the world,” he said.

“The regional and world situation is witnessing fast and complex developments. In East Sea, China has undertaken many activities that violate the international law” and the UNCLOS.

He also cited China’s “gravely infringing on the sea waters of coastal countries” including its “illegal placement” of Haiyang (Shiyou)-981 drilling rig “under the protection of many escorting vessels deep into the continental shelf, an exclusive economic zone of Vietnam.”

China’s move, he said, “constitutes a serious threat to peace and maritime safety, security and freedom of navigation in the East Sea.”

On that note, Dung said he agreed with Aquino that they must jointly strengthen cooperation in ASEAN and in the regional and international frameworks to reach the goal of having a united and strong ASEAN.

Dung also praised the country’s fast development and impressive economic growth despite a difficult global landscape.

He also congratulated the Philippines for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He said the signing was key to establishing peace, stability for development and prosperity in the southern Philippines.

Dung said he has a “strong conviction in the Philippines’ sustainable and prosperous development.”

Dung said it was such a touching moment for him to lay a wreath at the monument of the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh at the ASEAN Park.

“The noble, revolutionary spirit of President Ho Chi Minh and the Philippines’ national hero, Jose Rizal, will forever inspire our two countries to strive for nation building and development,” he said.

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