PH, Vietnam plan to sign pact on strategic alliance
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and Vietnam plan to sign an accord next week to elevate their relationship to a strategic level, allowing them to deepen economic ties and maritime cooperation, a Philippine official said Tuesday.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said the accord may be signed on the sidelines of next week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Manila in the presence of President Benigno Aquino III and his Vietnamese counterpart.
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang is among 11 heads of state Aquino will meet with one-on-one in Manila, Jose said.
Vietnam and the Philippines are among five governments at odds with China over contested territories in the South China Sea. But both have not characterized the proposed alliance as targeting Beijing, which they have strongly criticized for its increasingly aggressive steps to assert its claims in the disputed waters.
Jose did not provide details when asked about the proposed accord at a news conference.
Last year, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said such a partnership aimed to improve trade, investment and maritime cooperation, including search and rescue work at sea.
Although a plan to sign the pact earlier did not push through due to a need to clarify some wordings, the proposal for the Southeast Asian neighbors to bolster their ties progressed rapidly. Both governments agreed to convene a joint committee to start talks on a strategic partnership only more than a year ago, Philippine officials said.
Aside from China, Vietnam and the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have also been involved in the disputes, which raged anew last year after China began transforming seven mostly submerged disputed reefs into islands that rival governments feared Beijing would use as military forward bases to reinforce its claims and presence far from the Chinese mainland.
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