Philippines and Vietnam agree to expand cooperation in South China Sea, which Beijing also claims | BetaVersa - BetaVersa
March 28, 2024

Philippines and Vietnam agree to expand cooperation in South China Sea, which Beijing also claims | BetaVersa

3 min read

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Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos (centre left) and Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong (centre right) visit Thang Long Imperial Citadel in Hanoi on January 30, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AFP

The Philippines and Vietnam signed agreements Tuesday to prevent incidents in the South China Sea and broaden cooperation between their coast guards in a growing alliance that will likely be frowned upon by China, which claims virtually the entire waters.

The agreements, along with discussions on enhancing information-sharing and training exchanges between the Vietnamese and Philippine militaries, were forged during a visit to Hanoi by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Both sides agreed to boost trade and investment and signed a key deal on rice.

The Philippines and Vietnam have had especially tense confrontations with China in the strategic waterway and key route for global trade in recent years. Territorial faceoffs in the high seas between Chinese and Philippine ships intensified last year, fueling fears of a wider conflict that could involve Washington, Manila’s longtime treaty ally.

Although Chinese and Philippine officials agreed earlier this month at a meeting in Shanghai to take steps to deescalate tensions, Marcos while in Hanoi raised his concerns over the long-seething disputes and cited increasingly aggressive actions by the Chinese coast guard.

“There continue to be … unilateral and illegal actions that violate our sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction and exacerbate tensions in the South China Sea,” Marcos said in a call to Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh. Transcripts of his remarks were issued by the presidential office in Manila.

The Philippine president cited a water cannon assault by the Chinese coast guard that damaged a Philippine vessel on Dec. 10 near the Second Thomas Shoal and a similar incident in another disputed area, the Scarborough Shoal.

“We are firm in defending our sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction against any provocations,” Marcos said. “But at the same time, we are also seeking to address these issues with China through peaceful dialogue and consultations as two equal sovereign states.”

Marcos said that in his talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the U.S. last November, he stressed “that need to deescalate tensions in the South China Sea, to which he agreed.”

It was not immediately clear how the Vietnamese premier reacted to Marcos’ remarks. Chinese officials also did not immediately comment on that, or on the agreements signed by the neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

Vietnamese and Philippine officials did not release specific details of their agreements on preventing and managing incidents in the South China Sea and intensifying coordination on maritime issues to promote trust and confidence.

“I hope that we can seriously implement this agreement as quickly as we can,” Marcos said.

The accord on maritime cooperation “aims to establish a comprehensive partnership between our coast guards on capacity building, training and personnel and ship exchanges to enhance interoperability operations between our two countries,” Marcos said.

The Philippine leader said his country was interested in a joint submission to a United Nations commission that deals with the limits of continental shelves of coastal states. “The Philippines is willing to work with Vietnam for a joint submission at the appropriate time,” Marcos said.

The two countries also signed a deal on Tuesday for Vietnam to supply the Philippines with 1.5 million to 2 million metric tons (1.6 to 2.2 million U.S. tons) of rice each year at affordable prices.

Vietnamese rice accounts for 85% of imported rice in the Philippines and the two countries agreed to create a framework for ensuring stable supplies. A rice shortage last year, exacerbated by climate change and some major producers halting exports, resulted in prices soaring globally including in the Philippines.

Marcos, who arrived in Hanoi on Monday, also met with Pham Nhat Vuong, Vietnam’s richest man and the chairman of the sprawling conglomerate Vingroup, which runs the electric vehicle company Vinfast.

Vinfast said after the meeting it would open an EV business network in the Philippines and that the investment would start later this year.

VinFast’s plans to expand in the Philippines are part of its goal of selling EVs in 50 markets worldwide. It is exporting EVs to the U.S. and also building a $4 billion EV factory in North Carolina, where production is slated to begin this year. It has also said it will build factories in Indonesia and India.

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