PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Vietnam Wednesday afternoon for a two-day visit, where talks would tackle the South China Sea row and cooperation against the illegal drug trade.
In his departure speech at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, Duterte said he would identify areas of partnership with Vietnam, particularly in maritime security and law enforcement.
“We shall seek the ways to advance collaboration in the campaign against illegal drugs trade, consistent with the goal of realizing an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Drug-Free Community. We will work with Vietnam and the rest of the Asean in suppressing the proliferation of illegal drugs for us to secure a better future for our generation and the generations to come,” the President said.
The President’s chartered Philippine Airlines flight arrived at around 5 p.m. at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.
Duterte was scheduled to meet members of the 3,800-strong Filipino community in Vietnam at Hanoi’s Intercontinental Hotel on Wednesday.
Today, Duterte will take part in wreath-laying ceremonies at the Monument of the National Heroes and Martyrs and at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.
He will be officially welcomed at the State Palace this morning and meet Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, who had extended the invitation to the Philippine leader to visit the socialist state.
In the afternoon, the President will call on Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Duterte will make a separate courtesy call on Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
The President will return to Manila later on Thursday.
The two countries have overlapping claims to the Kalayaan (Spratly) group of islands. Vietnam occupies more islands or reefs in the disputed area than the Philippines, 21 versus 10.
Both however have to contend with China, which claims virtually the entire South China Sea. In July, Manila won a legal victory, with an international arbitral tribunal ruling that China’s “nine-dash line” claim had no legal basis.
At the Asean summits in Laos early this month, Duterte and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen agreed “there must be freedom of navigation” in the area.
Duterte on Wednesday said the Philippines and Vietnam, both maritime nations, have common strategic interests.
“I look forward to exchange views and explore opportunities further significantly improving our economic bilateral cooperation, including stronger partnership in economic, agriculture, defense and maritime cooperation,” he said.
The two countries are marking the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic relations as they prepare to take leadership roles in the region in 2017 — the Philippines as chairman of Asean and Vietnam as chairman of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.