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Vietnam, Philippines seal deals on South China Sea security, rice
Published on: Tuesday, January 30, 2024
By: Reuters
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Vietnam, Philippines seal deals on South China Sea security, rice
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said Vietnam was the Philippines’ sole strategic partner in Southeast Asia. (AP pic)
HANOI: Vietnam and the Philippines agreed on Tuesday to boost cooperation among their coastguards and to prevent untoward incidents in the South China Sea, in an announcement during a state visit to Hanoi by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The two Southeast Asian countries have competing claims over some parts of the South China Sea, a conduit for US$3 trillion of annual ship-borne trade that China claims almost in its entirety.

The two memoranda of understanding on security covered “incident prevention in the South China Sea” and “maritime cooperation” among coastguards, according to a Vietnamese official who announced the deals during a formal ceremony in the country’s presidential palace.

The agreements in Hanoi, details of which were not disclosed, could risk angering Beijing, which has deployed its vast fleet of coastguards throughout the South China Sea to police its expansive territorial claims.

Both Hanoi and Manila have had run-ins with China’s coastguard in the past, but altercations have been frequent in the last year between vessels of China and US-ally the Philippines, adding strain to deteriorating relations.

Before meeting Vietnam’s president Vo Van Thuong, Marcos said Vietnam was “the sole strategic partner of the Philippines” in Southeast Asia and stressed that maritime cooperation was the foundation of that relation.

Vietnam, one of the world’s biggest rice exporters, also sealed agreements with the Philippines, a top importer of the grain, covering rice trade and agriculture cooperation.

In his two-day visit to Hanoi, Marcos is meeting Vietnamese leaders, but not Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, according to official schedules, in what would be Trong’s third consecutive absence from meetings with visiting leaders this month.

Trong, 79, however, attended a parliament’s session in mid-January, partly dispelling concerns about his health after he was not included in official schedules of visiting leaders from Laos and Indonesia.

Before meeting Vietnamese political leaders on Tuesday, Marcos met Pham Nhat Vuong, the head of Vingroup VIC.HM, Vietnam’s largest conglomerate, on Monday.

The company said on Tuesday that its electric car unit VinFast VFS.O will open a business network in the Philippines.

Marcos said the Philippines could help in the production of batteries for electric vehicles, thanks to its reserves of cobalt, copper and nickel, according to Vingroup’s statement.

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