By Camille A. Aguinaldo, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINES and Vietnam convened on Tuesday its ninth Joint Bilateral Cooperation Mechanism, which led to both countries adopting a new five-year plan of action on a broad range of areas.
“Building on the excellent work of our senior officials yesterday, (Vietnamese) Deputy Prime Minister Pham (Binh Minh) and I adopted the new Philippines-Vietnam five-year Plan of Action covering the period 2019 to 2024,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said in a joint press conference at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Wednesday.
“It comprehensively maps out specific commitments we will undertake jointly in the political, security, economic, and cultural spheres, as well as in other various areas,” he added.
For his part, Mr. Pham, who is also the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, highlighted his “in-depth and substantive discussion” with Mr. Locsin on “regional and international issues of mutual interest,” such as the still-disputed South China Sea.
“We both underlined the importance of maintaining peace, stability, safety and security of navigation in the South China Sea, peaceful resolution of (the) dispute, and respecting the diplomatic and legal processes, respecting international law, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) 1982, full observation of DOC (Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) towards early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC (Code of Conduct in the South China Sea),” he said in his press statement.
“Vietnam spoke highly of the Philippines’ role as the Coordinator of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-China relations until 2021,” he added.
Vietnam is among the countries with competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, aside from the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, and China. The country protested last November China’s construction activities in the disputed waters.
Mr. Pham also noted the strengthening of cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam in the defense and security aspect “with the regular and effective implementation of important mechanisms such as defense policy dialogue and the navy consultation.”
“We appreciate the good progress in maritime and oceanic affairs cooperation, and also in agriculture, ICT (Information and Communications Technology), environment, education, training, culture, sports, tourism, and people-to-people exchange,” he said.
He added that both countries have agreed to target an annual growth of 20% in bilateral trade turnover in the next few years. He said bilateral trade turnover between the two countries reached $4.72 billion in 2018, which Mr. Pham said was up by 18% compared to 2017.
“Both our countries are among the fastest growing economies in Asia, and that is conducive to further promoting our trade and investment relations in the years ahead,” Mr. Pham said.
Mr. Locsin said the new five-year plan between the two countries showed the “resolve to drive relations forward and onward.”
“As two of ASEAN’s most dynamic economies, and as two countries faced with similar challenges, we draw lessons not only from our gains and accomplishments but also from…areas where we might have fallen short,” Mr. Locsin said.
The Joint Commission on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) is a regular consultative mechanism between the two countries to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern. The last JCBC was held in Hanoi in October 2015, during the tenure of then Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario.