DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he and Vietnamese President Trần Đại Quang had agreed to adopt a joint measure aimed at ensuring maritime security, particularly in the disputed South China Sea.
“We reaffirm commitment to maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and over flight as well as unimpeded commerce in the region, particularly in the South China Sea,” Duterte said in his arrival speech at the Davao International Airport here after his state visit to Vietnam.
He said that he and Trần, during their meeting in Hanoi, also agreed to “strengthen existing maritime cooperation mechanisms” and “adopt measures to ensure the safety and security of fishermen from both countries.”
China has been accused of bullying fishermen from its smaller Asian neighbors such as the Philippines and Vietnam, who venture into the disputed territories.
Despite reports of China’s bullying and its perceived threats to other claimants, Duterte said he and Trần agreed that there should be “a peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, self-restraint in the conduct of activities without resorting to a threat or use of force in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).”
“We are nations for peace and we will continue to be so. A peaceful region is what we owe as a legacy to our succeeding generations,” he said.
Duterte said there was no doubt in him and Trần that “a sustained economic growth and development thrive in the back of stable and secure environment.”
Aside from these, he said he and Trần also identified “new avenues of defense cooperation” but declined to say what these were.
“It is not for public consumption,” he said.
Duterte said the Philippines and Vietnam will also explore ways to intensify law enforcement cooperation against transnational crime, including the illegal drugs trade.
“(We) committed to ramp up bilateral exchanges to boost our strategic partnership. We agreed to increase exchanges between our officials and peoples and establish a six-year action plan starting 2017 for the implementation of activities in the areas of common interest,” he said.
Duterte said his visit to Vietnam has demonstrated his government’s “adherence on independent foreign policy, which seeks cooperation and collaboration between nations on the basis of sovereign equality and non-interference and the mutual respect to protect our national interests.”/rga