• Vietnam, PH ink strategic pact

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    THE Philippines and Vietnam signed an agreement to boost economic, defense and agricultural ties amid maritime disputes over islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Vietnamese President Truong Sang witnessed the signing of the strategic pact in Malacanang on Tuesday.

    Sang is in Manila to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
    The agreement will allow the two countries, China’s most vocal critics, to strengthen their defense, political and economic relations.

    “This Strategic Partnership will provide further impetus to deepen our cooperation, particularly in the areas of economic, agricultural, defense, and maritime engagement—areas that are truly vital to the strategic interests of both our nations,” Aquino said during the joint press statement.

    The agreement, he said, will increase the bilateral trade of both countries beyond 2016, and pave the way for “active engagement and cooperation between our respective defense and military establishments.”

    Vietnam is the second country in Asia with which the Philippines have forged strategic partnership after Japan.

    Aquino said he and Sang “recognize the importance of maritime and ocean issues in our bilateral relations.”

    He said the decision of the arbitral tribunal in The Hague taking jurisdiction of the complaint filed by the Philippines against China was also discussed in their bilateral talks.

    “As I impressed upon the President: The decision represents a significant step forward in our quest for a peaceful, impartial resolution as regards the disputes, as well as the clarification of our rights under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos),” he said.

    Sang noted that the forging of a stronger alliance marks “a new era for cooperation between our two countries, while making contributions to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region.”

    Sang said he and Aquino “shared our concerns over the recent developments in the East Sea or the South China Sea, affecting trust, peace, security and stability in the region.”

    “We reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the stability, maritime security, safety and freedom of navigation and of flight in the South China Sea, as well as settling maritime disputes on the basis of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

    “We reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the stability, maritime security, safety and freedom of navigation and of flight in the South China Sea, as well as settling maritime disputes on the basis of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.

    “Both sides will concur to promote solidarity and maintain the Asean centrality in major issues relating to security and interests of each country and the region given the establishment of the Asean Community by the end of 2015,” he added.

    The Philippines and Vietnam have been vocal in criticizing China’s actions in the South China Sea, especially in areas within their exclusive economic zone.

    China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea, including areas within the exclusive economic zones of its neighbors.

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