AFTER 40 years of establishing trade and cultural exchanges, the Philippines and Vietnam have formalized its diplomatic ties with the inauguration of the “Philippines and Vietnam Friendship Association” on July 29 at the historic Manila Hotel.
Given this sound bilateral relationship, the initiation of a formal group to further strengthen the connection of these two Southeast Asian (SEA) nations is certainly long overdue.
“The Philippine-Vietnam Friendship Association is a private initiative of people with diligent devotion to the pursuit of lasting peace and friendship among nations of the world,” said Edgar “Eddie” Ilarde, former Philippine senator and president of the newly established organization in his opening remarks.
“The founders represent various sectors of our society whose desire is to cement and develop our friendship and understanding with the Vietnamese people,” Ilarde added.
Recognizing that Vietnam is fast developing and growing as a nation, the Filipino founders do not only aim to protect the long-standing relationship of the two nations in culture and trade, but also to develop future projects that enrich these facets.
“It was not too long ago that we noticed how Vietnam has come out of its shell. Less than a decade ago, [its people]started to embark on a national campaign to gain recognition and befriend all nations so that it reached out to SEA countries like the Philippines. The moment they opened their doors we seized the opportunity, and now we have this association to further enhance that relationship,” said Ernesto Banawis, board member and public relations head of the organization.
With both nations bearing similar histories of Western colonialism, the founders strongly believe that the two neighboring countries can “learn from each other and grow together.”
Moreover, they are proud that they have established the group in time for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) integration scheduled in 2015.
“The Vietnamese are moving on from what happened in the past. They are even reaching out to the US government to gain international recognition and respect,” Banawis told The Manila Times.
“It was during the Vietnam War that Philippine foreign policy was geared [in support of the]US so that we even sent troops to Vietnam through the Philippine Civic Action Group, which could have been negatively received. But that is all in the past and we [the Philippines and Vietnam]should set [that part of history aside]and strike out on our own.
“The Philippines and Vietnam are now at the forefront in their efforts to solidify relationships in the SEA community,” he continued.
With the proximity of the two nations, Banawis affirmed that it is only fitting the Philippines initiate the establishment of an association that will help facilitate a smoother commercial and agricultural trade.
The Philippines and Vietnam Friendship Association inaugural ceremony had in attendance seasoned political leaders and experts in foreign relations.
As Vietnam’s Ambassador to the Philippines Troung Trieu Duong commended Filipinos for their warmth and hospitality, the association’s founders thanked Vietnam for its openness to the country.
Outlining immediate plans the Philippines-Vietnam Friendship Association promises to promote history, arts and culture through people-to-people projects such as student exchange programs, as well as via informative shows exhibits, song and dance programs, and native arts and crafts exhibits among others. There will also be initiatives on language, welfare, sports, and business practices.
Besides Ilarde and Banawis, members of the board include Gonzalo Jurado, the vice president of Kalayaan College and an expert in international economics; Alfredo dela Rosa, former editor in chief (EIC) and now editorial consultant of The Manila Times; Rodrigo Domingo, member of the Philippine Bar and president of various charitable organizations; Ricardo Wagan, the first Filipino to erect a statue of Ho Chi Minh; Luis Arriola, publisher and EIC of Asean Times; Luis Uranza, lawyer that specializes in litigation, mineral exploration and corporate rehabilitation; and Victoria Orara, a leading advocate of women’s rights.
For more information on how to become a member of the Philippine-Vietnam Friendship Association, call 813-3459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their office address at Suite 203 FBT Bldg., 20 Polaris St., Bel-Air, Makati City.