PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. Looks forward to signing a deal with Vietnam to boost maritime cooperation in the South China Sea, the Philippine presidential palace said in a statement on Thursday.

Speaking with outgoing Vietnam Ambassador to the Philippines Hoang Huy Chung, Mr. Marcos underscored the importance of maritime cooperation.

“Now that we are going to start discussions on the agreement that we have between the Philippines and Vietnam… it will be a very, very important part of our relationship and it will bring an element of stability to the problems that we are seeing now in the South China Sea,” the President said.

President Marcos said the agreement “is going to be a very big step” between the Philippines and Vietnam.

Mr. Chung paid a farewell call to the President on Thursday. He was appointed ambassador to the Philippines in 2020.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces spokesman Medel Aguilar said 12 Chinese militia vessels had helped the Chinese Coast Guard attack using a water cannon Philippine vessels on a resupply mission at Second Thomas Shoal on Aug. 5.

“Our soldiers and crewmen saw 12 maritime militia that supported the six ships of the China Coast Guard,” he told a news briefing. “There was also the presence of the People’s Liberation Army Navy in the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal,” he added, referring to Second Thomas Shoal.

But not all of them participated or were involved in the blocking, Mr. Aguilar said.

The National Security Council earlier said the Chinese Coast Guard had used one of the world’s strongest water cannons.

Also on Thursday, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Jay Tristan Tarriela criticized Filipinos whom he accused of sympathizing with China in its sea dispute with the Philippines.

“If you are a Filipino, whether in government or private sector, regardless of your politics, defending and making excuses for China’s aggressive behavior should deem you unpatriotic, and a traitor to the Philippines and to our people,” he tweeted.

“Given current developments in the West Philippine Sea, it is important to show loyalty to the country,” he said, referring to areas of the sea within the country’s exclusive economic zone.  Freedom of speech should not be misused by Filipinos who act as China’s mouthpiece, he added.

Ex-President Rodrigo R. Duterte met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, during which he reportedly asked the Chinese leader to look kindly on the Philippines.

The sea dispute between the two nations was never brought up during the meeting, Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said last week, citing President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

Mr. Marcos met with Senate leaders on Wednesday night after meeting with Mr. Duterte at the presidential palace, the senator said.

There are now proposals from his Senate allies to make him a special envoy to China, citing his “good standing” with Beijing. — KATA