THE Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam established formal diplomatic relations on July 12, 1976. Since its formal establishment, bilateral ties have been nurtured based on amity, equality, mutual respect and cooperation beneficial to the peoples of both nations.
In 1976, the two countries signed a joint communiqué: 1) to respect each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity; non-aggression and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality, mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence; (2) not to allow any foreign country to use one’s territory as a base for direct or indirect aggression and intervention against the other country or other countries in the region; (3) to establish friendly and good neighborly relations, economic cooperation and cultural exchanges on the bases of equality and mutual benefit; and (4) to promote cooperation among countries in the region for the benefit of genuine independence, peace, prosperity and neutrality in Southeast Asia, thereby contributing to peace in the world.
In 1978, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong became the first high-ranking Vietnamese official to visit the Philippines upon the invitation of former President Ferdinand Marcos. In 1978, Vietnam and the Philippines set up their respective embassies.
On January 9, 1978, the two countries signed an agreement on economic, scientific and technical cooperation covering various fields such as trade, transport, communications, agriculture and natural resource-based industries. In terms of socio-cultural activities, both countries promoted exchange visits among scholars, scientists, government officials and members of their respective business communities.
In 1994, President Fidel V. Ramos became the first Philippine head of state to undertake an official visit to Viet Nam.
For 40 years now, both countries have developed substantive, positive and multifaceted relations in various aspects such as politics, security and national defense, commercial investment, tourism, agriculture, education, reinforced by warm people-to-people links.
In political cooperation, the friendship and comprehensive cooperation between Viet Nam and the Philippines have been well developed. In October 2002, the “Viet Nam-Philippines Framework for Bilateral Cooperation in the first quarter of 21st Century and beyond” was signed. In October 2011, two countries signed “Viet Nam-Philippines Action Plan in the period 2011-2016” to set the direction for bilateral cooperation in specific fields and agreed to move forward to a higher level of strategic relations. The Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC), led by the Foreign Ministries of both sides, is the platform to formulate and implement the six-year Viet Nam-Philippines Action Plan, which shall be reviewed every three years.
On November 17, 2015, on the occasion of the Bilateral Meeting between former President Benigno S. Aquino III of the Republic of the Philippines and President Truong Tan Sang of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, on the sidelines of the APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting (AELM) held in Manila, the two presidents agreed to officially establish the Strategic Partnership between Viet Nam and the Philippines. Two countries issued a joint statement on the establishment of a strategic partnership with a view to elevate the level and intensity of bilateral exchanges between the two countries and to harness advantages for common development.
In economic cooperation, two-way trade turnover has increased gradually year to year; reaching around $2.2 to $2.4 billion from 2008 to 2011. From 2012 to 2015, the turnover grew fast and reached $2.9 billion and about $3 billion consecutively. From 2008, Viet Nam got a trade surplus of about $1 billion from the Philippines, the biggest amount compare to other Asean partners, mainly count for rice export. Rice is Viet Nam’s core export commodity to the Philippines for many recent years, account to 50 to 60 percent of export turnover. The MOU on Supply of Vietnamese Rice to the Philippines was signed in 2008. Under the MOU, Viet Nam shall export a maximum amount of 1.5 billion tons of rice to the Philippines annually. To ensure food security and sustainable rural development, the two countries will seek to promote cooperation and experience-sharing in agriculture and application of advanced bio-technology to increase productivity and quality of agricultural output. Apart from rice, Viet Nam exports electronic components, agricultural product to the Philippines and import fertilizer, machines, equipment, spare part, mineral product, oil and petrol, pharmaceutical product, building materials among others.
Defence, security, judicial and law enforcement cooperation
Two countries have sustained regular meetings of Viet Nam-Philippines Defense Cooperation Working Group at the Assistant Secretary/Director General level on an annual basis, and the Viet Nam-Philippines Defense Strategic Dialogue at the Vice Minister-level. The existing joint mechanisms and agreements, including the MOA on Defense Cooperation have been implemented to intensify cooperation between armed services. The cooperation and experience sharing on UN peacekeeping operations, cooperation in multilateral military and defense fora, including ADMM, ADMM-Plus, ARF, ACDFIM, among others also have been strengthened.
Maritime and ocean affairs cooperation
Maritime and ocean affairs cooperation is the main pillar in Viet Nam and the Philippines bilateral relations. The Joint working Group on Maritime and Ocean issues formed in 2004 and met annually from 2004 to 2011. In February 2012, this mechanism was upgraded to the Joint Commission on Maritime and Ocean Cooperation co-chaired by Deputy Foreign Ministers with the first meeting held on February 20 to 21, 2012. Through dialogue and coordination, two sides have strengthened bilateral and regional cooperation between and among maritime law enforcement and maritime safety administration agencies, promoting practical cooperation and capacity-building activities, recognizing that maritime and ocean issues are vital aspects of bilateral cooperation.
In October 2010, both sides signed MOA on Cooperation in Search and Rescue at Sea and MOA on Cooperation in Oil Spills Preparedness and Response. In the field of fisheries, both sides conducted many activities such as exchange of experts and information on marine aquaculture techniques and capacity-building for fishermen to ensure the protection and sustainable management of the marine resources within their respective maritime jurisdictions and in accordance with the applicable laws. The hotline between Viet Nam’s Department of Fisheries Resources Surveillance and the Philippines’ Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has been maintained to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) and ensure the protection of the rights and welfare of fishermen from both countries that may be involved in such cases.
In socio-cultural cooperation, two sides have pursued the strengthening of people-to-people cooperation through the Viet Nam-Philippines Friendship Association (established in August 2014) and the Philippines-Viet Nam Friendship Association (established in October 2014), as well as the conclusion of twinning arrangements between cities and provinces of the two countries.
The Agreement on Academic Cooperation was signed in October 2010 and the Tourism Cooperation Plan for 2012-2015 was signed in October 2011. In recent years, the number of Vietnamese students studying in the Philippines has increased quickly and so does tourists. Tourists from the Philippines to Viet Nam increased from 27,000 batches in 2008 to above 100,000 batches in 2015. Tourists from Viet Nam to the Philippines also increased triple, from 6000 in 2009 to about 20,000 in 2015.
In multilateral cooperation, both sides continue to strengthen activities in regional and international cooperation mechanisms, as well as attach high importance to joint efforts towards the realization of the Asean Community Vision 2025 and enhance ASEAN’s centrality in an inclusive regional architecture.
In South China Sea, Vietnam and the Philippines have committed to resolving territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, as well as to ensuring maritime security and safety in the South China Sea, all in accordance with universally-recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both sides pursue, in consultation with Asean and China, the full and effective implementation of the Asean-China DOC, and the early launch of substantive, official negotiations towards the early conclusion of the effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Two countries also push for greater cooperation in disaster risk reduction and management under the Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, Asean Maritime Forum, the Expanded Asean Maritime Forum and relevant regional fora to enhance maritime cooperation, as well as discuss measures to ensure maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above South China Sea, mobilize knowledge and assistance from maritime legal experts to put forward solutions to challenges and emerging maritime issues, contributing to peace, security and development in the region.