Officials from the Philippines and Vietnam meet on Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations, including sealing a strategic partnership that will enhance defense and maritime cooperation in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
According to a statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the ministerial meeting of the 8th Philippines-Vietnam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) will be held on October 21.
Aside from the JCBC, Manila and Hanoi are also in the process of arriving at a strategic partnership, agreed upon by President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Vietnam President Tan Sang in 2014 on the sidelines of the 26th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.
“This strategic partnership is being established with a view to elevating the level and intensity of bilateral exchanges between the two countries,” the department said.
Both the Philippines and Vietnam are maritime nations with “rapidly developing economies,” DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario said.
“The future of the Philippines and Vietnam is closely linked and it is natural that the bilateral relations of both countries should strengthen and intensify,” he added.
Manila and Hanoi are locked in competing maritime claims with China, which, in the past years, had become increasingly dominant and aggressive in asserting its “encompassing” claims in the South China Sea.
The Philippines filed an arbitration case against China before the United Nations-backed International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos), for which Vietnam has voiced its support.
The department said the JCBC “is an important mechanism between the two countries to discuss bilateral and regional issues, as well as plan for joint projects to enhance Philippines-Vietnam cooperation in areas such as political, economic, security, defense, agriculture and maritime cooperation, among others.”
Del Rosario, who will head the meeting together with his Vietnamese counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, said the meeting is an opportunity for both sides to discuss developments in their bilateral relations, which “have expanded significantly and strengthened and diversified through cooperative activities.”