AFTER all the nice words of the Philippine and Vietnamese sides about the construction of “a strategic partnership” between the Philippines and Vietnam, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had to hit the nail on the head. He correctly said that among the challenges that lie ahead is that “the two countries still have to craft exactly what the strategic partnership means.”
At the sidelines of the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) conference in Beijing, which President B.S. Aquino and the DFA chief (among other Filipino bigshots) are attending, President Aquino and Secretary Del Rosario and their counterparts from Vietnam had a meeting.
Sec. del Rosario said the Philippines and Vietnam will start holding discussions next month on the “roadmap toward a strategic partnership” with Vietnam “to enhance their economic and cultural ties.”
He said at a media briefing following the Philippines-Vietnam bilateral meeting that the “roadmap will essentially focus on improving the trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges of the two countries.”
A report released by the Presidential Communications Operations Office said, “Asked why the Philippines decided to make Vietnam a strategic partner, just like the US and Japan, Sec. del Rosario said this is because of the special bond between Vietnam and the Philippines.”
Sec. del Rosario is quoted to have said, “I think that it is mostly driven by our close ties with them, and we actually have entered into a strong commitment to be able to bring our relations closer, and the way to do this is through some form of a comprehensive strategic partnership.”
However, there are challenges ahead, he said, noting that the two countries still have to craft exactly what the strategic partnership means.
The Philippines and Vietnam need to integrate their thoughts in terms of what they mean by “comprehensive strategic partnership,” del Rosario explained.
“But I think there is enough of a history in terms of our relations and the fact that we have very close ties, to get us to where we want to go,” he added.
At the same time, he said, the two countries have agreed to strengthen their agriculture and maritime cooperation, including in search-and-rescue operations, marine environment protection, and oil spill preparedness.
Next year, the Philippines will chair the 2015 APEC Summit while Vietnam will host the meeting in 2017. Both sides have agreed to support each other’s chairmanship.
Vietnam and China also has strategic cooperation
It’s important as Sec. del Rosario has pointed out that the challenge of defining exactly what “strategic partnership” between Vietnam and the Philippines is properly determined and defined.
Because both countries have suffered from the People’s Republic of China’s aggressive moves in the West Philippine (South China) Sea, Vietnam and the Philippines have found themselves working together in countering China.
The fact, however, is that Vietnam and China also have a “strategic partnership” agreement.
Last October 27, 2014, in Hanoi, Deputy Prime Minister and concurrently Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and Chinese State Councillor Jang Jiechi co-chaired the Seventh Meeting of the Vietnam-China Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation.
The two sides reviewed how bilateral cooperation in various areas have developed since the Sixth Meeting of the Vietnam-China Steering Committee for Bilateral Cooperation convened in May 2103.
The two sides made statements saying that “ the stable and sound development of the Vietnam-China friendly relations would meet the aspiration and fundamental interests of the two peoples” and promote “ the benefit of peace, stability and development of the region.”
Vietnam and China also agreed “to make joint efforts to seriously implement the agreements and common understandings reached between the two countries’ leaders and unceasingly deepen the Vietnam-China comprehensive strategic cooperation.”
So, how will Philippine-China “strategic cooperation” differ from that between Vietnam and China?