PH, Vietnam condemn China’s illegal actions

Natashya Gutierrez

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The two countries also agree to strengthen defense and maritime cooperation to protect their maritime resource and suppress illegal activities

UNITED. President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnam PM Nguyen Tan Dung call for international community to condemn China's illegal actions. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and Vietnam took a united stand against China’s aggression in the South China Sea, condemning recent actions as a “violation of international law.”

On Wednesday, May 21, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a joint statement expressing “deep concern” over China’s moves, saying they pose a challenge to the region’s peace and security.

“With regard to the situation in the East Sea, the President and I shared the deep concerns over the current extremely dangerous situation caused by China’s many actions that violate the international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and seriously infringe on the waters across our countries,” said Dung.

He particularly slammed China’s move to deploy an oil rig and vessels near the disputed Paracel Islands, and said “the two sides are determined to oppose China’s violations.”

Dung also called for other countries and the international community “to continue strongly condemning China…to strictly observe the international law.”

In his toast later on, Aquino expressed his support for Dung and his commitment to fighting the “injustice” shown by China in the interest of the region.

Mr. Prime Minister, as I conveyed to you and our colleagues in the most recent ASEAN Summit in Myanmar: If an injustice is done to one, is it not true that it sets the stage for injustice done to all? Therefore, is it not our task, as leaders of ASEAN, to continue to find ways to strengthen our relations and build the mechanisms that will ensure fairness and justice throughout our region?” he said.

Both the Philippines and Vietnam are in the middle of territorial disputes against China.

The two leaders also said they have agreed to increase the two countries’ maritime and defense cooperation, with Aquino pointing out both the Philippines and Vietnam “face common challenges as maritime nations and as brothers in ASEAN.”

“In defense and security, we discussed how we can enhance confidence-building, our defense capabilities, and interoperability in addressing security challenges,” he said.

“I believe that continued cooperation with Vietnam, as well as with other members of ASEAN, in defense and security will only contribute to promoting regional stability. It is not an overstatement when I say that I look forward to increased collaboration between our respective defense agencies.”

Aquino said increased collaboration between the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Vietnam Coast Guard (VCG) will be “aimed at protecting our marine resources and suppressing illegal activities in the adjacent sea area between our two countries.”

In an attempt to settle its dispute with China, specifically over the Spratly Islands, Manila has since filed a pleading before an arbitral tribunal.

Vietnam’s own tensions with China have also heightened, following China’s provocative move to deploy an oil rig near the Paracel Islands. Chinese and Vietnamese ships have gone past water cannon attacks to ramming each other, supposedly injuring Vietnamese crew.

On land, Vietnamese have launched deadly anti-China riots prompting China to evacuate more than 3,000 of its citizens out of Vietnam.

In the recent ASEAN summit, regional leaders also issued a joint statement expressing concern over China’s recent actions and calling for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes. There has also been an increased push to finalize the Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Strengthening ASEAN

Aside from defense, the two countries also agreed on increased cooperation regarding tourism, trade and investment.

On tourism cooperation, Aquino said the two countries will focus on cruise tourism development. Aquino said he looks forward to other innovative collaborations for tourism “since both our nations view this sector as an important driver for growth not only for our economies, but for ASEAN as a whole.”

Both leaders also discussed increasing trade and investments between their respective nations, with a goal to attain two-way trade worth US$3 billion by 2016. In 2013, bilateral trade amounted to $1.33 billion.

Additionally, the two countries agreed to establish a working commission headed by each country’s foreign ministries to establish a roadmap towards strategic partnership with regards to people-to-people relations, peace, stability, cooperation, and development of the region.

Aquino and Dung emphasized working together toward the strengthening of ASEAN.

Aquino expressed hope that the region’s countries “will remain steadfast to this shared aspiration – that by working together and even harder, by empowering our people to be partners in this endeavor, and by advancing the rule of law, we can truly build a Southeast Asia that is a wellspring of opportunity and a foundation of peace and stability.”

Dung is in Manila primarily for the World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF-EA), hosted for the first time by the Philippines.

Earlier today, he laid a wreath at the Monument of Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh at the ASEAN Gardens in Intramuros.

He arrived in Malacañang at 4 pm for foyer honors, and signed the Palace guestbook.

He then had a one-on-one meeting with Aquino before both leaders joined their respective officials for an expanded bilateral meeting.

Aquino hosted dinner in honor of his guest at the President’s Hall immediately after issuing their joint statement. –

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.