Statement by President Ferdinand R. Marcos R. Jr. for the Bilateral Meeting with Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng
Thank you very much, Your Excellency.
To begin with, as I mentioned earlier, we have a wide variety of areas of cooperation that are under our Strategic Partnership.
On Defense Cooperation, I affirm the need for our two Armed Forces to increase and regularly conduct high-level exchange, so that information sharing and visits and education and training exchanges will solidify and strengthen that relationship and that cooperation.
I hope that we can include in our negotiations for the proposed MOU Concerning the Provision of Mutual Logistic Support, and look towards mutually advancing the defense and security capabilities of our country.
On Maritime Cooperation, the Philippines looks forward to the signing of the Philippine – Viet Nam MOU on Maritime Cooperation. This MOU will provide a more extensive partnership for both countries’ Coast Guards through capacity building training, exchanges of personnel and ships for interoperability operations.
The MOA on Search and Rescue at Sea signed in 2010 between our Coast Guards should be reviewed to enhance cooperation through liaising capability, coordination through skills development of both our coastguards and, with the objective of conducting a collaborative exercise, hopefully, this year.
The MOA on the Establishment of Hotline Communication Mechanism signed in 2011 between our coast guards should be strengthened through the use of digital platforms.
On the South China Sea, I am pleased that we will witness the signing of the MOU on Incident Prevention and Management in the South China Sea, which aims to promote cooperation and coordination between the Philippines and Viet Nam. I hope that through dialogue, we can maintain a peaceful, friendly, and harmonious environment in the South China Sea.
It is imperative to the Philippines and the world that the sailings and the air traffic over the South China Sea remain free for the large amount of trade that goes through those areas.
I note Viet Nam’s continued interest in undertaking a Joint Submission on Extended Continental Shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The Philippines is willing to work with Viet Nam for a joint submission at the appropriate time.
To update on the Philippine economy, I am happy to share that the Philippines’ economic outlook remains positive. And, in the third quarter of 2023, the Philippine economy grew by 5.9%, while the World Bank predicted a 5.6% growth rate for the Philippines. With this growth rate, the Philippines is considered one of the stronger major economies in Asia.
The Philippine government’s efforts are focused on the implementation of structural economic reforms, including the enactment of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code last December, which this will streamline the PPP processes and eventually address the Philippines’ large infrastructure gaps.
The Philippines is also committed to becoming a reliable partner in digital transformation, with a future-ready workforce who are ready to embrace new technologies from the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). We hope to work with Viet Nam in maximizing the use of technology and developing our countries’ infrastructure for digital transformation in order to take full advantage of the positive impact it can bring on our economies.
There is another side to the development of the digital economy and the digital space and that is security, and – not only in terms of defense, security of our militaries, but also security for our people who have been fallen victim to some of the more sinister hacking and scanning that does occurs over the digital space, and I hope that we can explore further ways so that we can cooperate to avoid and to mitigate this new found problem.
On economic cooperation, I could see countless opportunities for our two countries. The Philippines remains steadfast in improving and strengthening our economic, trade, and investment relations with Viet Nam. It is also our hope to increase our bilateral trade to USD 10 billion by exploring other potential areas.
We hope to capitalize on our countries’ ratification of the [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] RCEP to maintain the upward trend in our trade. The Philippines is eager to work closely with Viet Nam in streamlining our trade and investments procedures and requirements, minimizing trade barriers, and fostering a transparent and predictable business environment that encourages fair competition and mutual growth and development.
The Philippines is dedicated to developing a circular economy that will reduce further consumption of natural resources, and develop an alternative method to current plastic waste management approach.
As such, the Philippines hopes for full implementation of the ASEAN Framework for Circular Economy, starting with different sectors depending on each country’s circumstances.
Further to this, the Philippines aspires for electric vehicles to penetrate 10% of our road transport by 2040, leading to a five percent (5%) aggregate energy savings from oil and electricity. With the Philippines’ implementation of a Comprehensive Roadmap and the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (EVIDA), we hope to drive the growth of the Philippine EV, or electrical vehicles industry and further, and for the future.
In addition, as we move towards a just energy transition, the Philippines welcomes potential partnerships with Viet Nam in establishing secure, sustainable, and resilient energy for our consumers.
I hope that we could explore business opportunities, technology exchange, capacity building, and project collaboration on biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, and offshore wind industry, amongst others.
On the sector agriculture and fisheries, I appreciate Viet Nam’s readiness to support the Philippines’ rice requirements. Especially coming from the pandemic, we recognize the critical importance of food security and sustainable global supply chains.
I am pleased that we have finalized the MOUs on Rice Trade Cooperation and Cooperation in Agriculture and Related Fields. We also welcome the finalization of agreements between state-owned and private companies on rice trade.
I believe that our Secretary of Agriculture came ahead of the rest of the delegation and his discussions are very much in full-swing and we look forward to the finalization of all the arrangements that have been discussed between our two countries in terms of agriculture, and specifically on the supply of rice from Vietnam to the Philippines and just as importantly the exchange – the transfer of technology that we can have between the Philippines and Vietnam as presently we have already, we are already seen that exchange in terms of technology, in terms of research where Vietnam has come to the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, and has developed new technology that we both can avail of.
I note the positive outcomes of our productive partnership based on the MOA on Fisheries Cooperation that was signed in 2010, which allowed us to coordinate on policies and exchange information on fisheries, aquaculture, capacity development, post-harvest development, and food safety.
On Climate Change, a now overarching issue for all of the world, but most specifically for our region who are very vulnerable to the effects of climate change. There are opportunities for cooperation in addressing immediate and current challenges that adversely affect food security due to environmental concerns.
Given both our countries’ vulnerability to Climate Change, I hope to collaborate with Viet Nam on projects aimed towards land-based and marine pollution abatement. And, I further, I look forward to exploring opportunities for low carbon growth and other joint research initiatives.
In view of the adoption by the COP28 of the proposal of the Co-Chairs of the Transitional Committee on the operationalization of a Loss and Damage Fund, the Philippines is offering to host the Board of the Fund, and to confer to such Board the legal personality and legal capacity as necessary for the discharge of its functions.
The offer to host the Board of the Fund is in line with the Philippines’ long-standing engagement on discussions of this Fund for the past decades, and it is our belief that all States must contribute to the success of its institutional architecture. We hope for the support of Viet Nam in our bid to host the Board of the Fund in the Philippines.
Another important area of our relations is people-to-people relations. To further our education cooperation, we would like to continue promoting exchange programs amongst our students, our faculties, and researchers, especially in agriculture.
In tourism, I am pleased to note the Implementation Program of the Agreement on Cooperation on Tourism for 2024 to 2028 is closed to being finalized. I am delighted with the expansion of the air services between our top destinations and anticipate that this will help boost economic activity and people-to-people relations.
On culture, the finalization of the Executive Programme on Cultural Cooperation for the period 2024 to 2028 will certainly strengthen our countries’ cultural cooperation through publication exchanges, arts and cultural exhibitions, and information sharing between our experts, our researchers, and our professors.
On parliamentary relations, the Philippines anticipates closer relations between our legislatures, especially with the establishment of friendship associations. We look forward to deepening our friendship in this area, with the goal of enhancing socio-economic development between Vietnam and the Philippines.
As we endeavor to promote closer ties amongst our peoples, I wish to also affirm the Philippines’ commitment to work with Viet Nam in protecting them. This includes addressing human trafficking in the region, which have recently spiked in the past year.
On regional and international issues, the South China Sea remains to be a point of contention. The Philippines position on the South China Sea has been consistent, clear, and firmly anchored in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In my State Visit to China last year, I reaffirmed with President Xi that maritime issues should not constitute the sum total of our relations, and that we should work to enhance our comprehensive strategic cooperation.
Despite this understanding, we continued to see the undertaking of unilateral and illegal actions that violate our sovereignty, our sovereign rights, and jurisdiction, and exacerbate tensions in the South China Sea.
We have, unfortunately experiences, an example of which is the 10th of December 2 of last year where the China Coast Guard once again used a water cannon and damaged a Philippine vessel that was undertaking a legitimate and routine resupply mission to the Ayungin Shoal.
This closely followed a similar water cannon incident on 9 December 2023, which happened in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal.
We are firm in defending our sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction against these Chinese provocations. But at the same time, we are also seeking to address these issues with China and all other partners through peaceful dialogue and consultations as two equal sovereign states.
In my conversations with President Xi on the sidelines of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting last November, I stressed to the President the need to de-escalate tensions in the South China Sea, and of course, he has agreed.
We are committed to work in partnership with other like-minded states to ensure a rules-based international order in the Asia-Pacific region governed by international law.
Our support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific as the foremost regional framework and architecture for collective peace, stability, and prosperity remains steadfast.
As a maritime nation, we share a similar assessment of the current state of our regional environment with other maritime nations of the Asia-Pacific.
Our countries have crucial roles to play in shaping the regional security discourse and in upholding the rules-based international order.
I also wish to stress that the Philippines has an independent foreign policy. The Philippines considers both the United States and China as key actors in maintaining peace and security, as well as economic growth and development of our region.
The U.S. is the Philippines’ only treaty ally. And as such, we continue to pursue military cooperation with the U.S. to strengthen our defensive capabilities and our ability to respond to humanitarian crises and disasters.
I am greatly concerned over tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Any conflict in Taiwan is certainly going to affect the northern territories of the Philippine archipelago, and may compromise the safety and wellbeing of the 170,000 Filipinos who now have made their lives in Taiwan. I understand that Viet Nam has a sizable population in Taiwan as well.
Meanwhile, as fellow ASEAN members, our two countries wish for the return to peace and stability of Myanmar. We support the Five-Point Consensus, and the efforts of Lao PDR as the new Chair of ASEAN. And, we believe that other ASEAN Member States, should they wish, must engage with Myanmar stakeholders, but in doing so, they should coordinate with the Chair, and their objectives should be consistent with the Five-Point Consensus.
We certainly remain concerned with the humanitarian situation in Myanmar and urge that efforts be made to end the violence and the conflict, or at least for the prevention of the conflict from escalating.
Certainly, we are also watching with great focus and interest about the growing humanitarian crisis now in Gaza and it is important that the UN plays a role in addressing this situation.
The Philippines supports the efforts of the United Nations to deliver urgent humanitar ian assistance and essential supplies to Palestinian civilians caught in the midst of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. We also continue to support the UN peacekeeping missions in the region.
We urge all parties to exert restraint to prevent the escalation of the conflict and that the Philippines supports the immediate ceasefire in Gaza. I wish to note that we have over two (2) million Filipinos in the region.
The Philippines firmly supports a two-state solution, consistently aligned with past international agreements and relevant UN resolutions. Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve a future where their rights, their aspirations, and security are recognized and upheld.
We are also concerned with the escalating violence in the region, especially in the Lebanon and in the Red Sea where, at the moment, we have 17 Filipino hostages that were taken by the Yemeni rebels together with their ship that was taken last December.
The Philippines stands ready to work with other countries towards a long-lasting resolution to the conflict in accordance with pertinent UN Security Council Resolutions and the general principles of international law.
On Candidatures, the Philippines wishes to thank Viet Nam for its confirmed support for the PH’s bid to the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member for term 2027-2028, with a confirmed arrangement of reciprocal support with Viet Nam’s UNSC for term 2020-2021.
Meanwhile, we will strongly consider Viet Nam’s upcoming candidatures for seats in other international organizations.
I wish to reiterate my appreciation for your invitation for me to visit your beautiful country, as well as to speak on our longstanding friendly relations and how we can bring that to greater heights.
I would also like— I am also very happy to be able to report that the Vietnamese community that has grown in the Philippines is continuing to flourish. They have contributed greatly through our society, to our workforce and have become a very crucial part now of the areas where they live. They have form communities that, again, are much appreciated by the Filipinos.
And, the relationship between the Philippines, the Vietnamese in the Philippines, I think serves as a very good example on what we can achieve. I would like to once again express my assurance that the Philippines will remain a steadfast partner to Viet Nam, and the robust bond between our nations fills me with optimism for the future of our relationship.
Thank you very much!