PH urged to unite with Vietnam on SCS

PH urged to unite with Vietnam on SCS

FIRST OFFICIAL TRIP President Marcos troops the line at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi onJan. 30 during his state visit to Vietnam, his first official trip this year. He was accompanied by Vo Van Thuong, his Vietnamese counterpart at that time. The two leaders tackled economic and maritime cooperation between their countries. —PPA POOL

FIRST OFFICIAL TRIP President Marcos troops the line at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on Jan. 30 during his state visit to Vietnam, his first official trip this year. He was accompanied by Vo Van Thuong, his Vietnamese counterpart at that time. The two leaders tackled economic and maritime cooperation between their countries. PPA POOL

MANILA, Philippines — As neighboring countries, the Philippines and Vietnam should work more closely to push back against “coercive activities” by China to protect their interests, academics at an institute of the US Department of Defense said.

Both Southeast Asian countries, which have had tense confrontations with Beijing over overlapping claims in the South China Sea (SCS), agreed in January to cooperate on maritime security during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Vietnam, his first official trip this year.


The two nations are vulnerable to China’s “divide and rule” tactic—a key principle in its strategy toward its neighbors — and are heavily exposed to coercive actions, said Alex Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies (Charles), a Hawaii-based academic institute of the US defense department.


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They should “resist the efforts and tendencies in this direction if they want to protect their interests,” he told the Inquirer. “As smaller countries, the Philippines and Vietnam should work together to alleviate their asymmetry of power with China. They can share their experiences and best practices against coercive activities. As they share the same interest to counter coercive activities, they should cooperate against coercion,” he said.

Coercive activities, according to Vuving, are often employed by a bigger country in its relations with smaller countries, as these are “more feasible when it relies on an asymmetry of power.”

“China is far more powerful than all of its neighbors in Southeast Asia. [It] is not only aware of this fact, it also tries to capitalize on the asymmetry of power it enjoys in relations with the neighbors. As a result, China is the source of most of the coercive activities between regional countries. The coercion is played out in several domains from the maritime domain to the economic domain to the cognitive domain,” he explained.

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The DKI-APCSS and Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies gathered participants from leading universities, think tanks and industries from the Philippines and Vietnam in Yokohama, Japan, in April to explore ways to build resilience against coercive activities in the maritime, economic and cognitive domains. These actions, according to the organizers, are a threat to the rules-based order.


Lori Forman, the workshop lead from DKI-APCSS, said the workshop was designed around the notion that a bundle of sticks is harder to break than one stick, adding: “We are more resilient when we work together.”

“From my perspective, the most significant takeaway was the strong appetite for increased interaction between the Philippines and Vietnam,” she told the Inquirer. “Despite differences in language and political systems, both countries share core interests which form a solid basis for collaboration.”

‘New model a charade’

Meanwhile Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año on Sunday denied their involvement in a “new model” to manage the situation on Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, saying the claim made by the Chinese Embassy in Manila was meant to divide the country and distract Filipinos from Beijing’s latest attack on Philippine vessels.

A Chinese Embassy spokesperson said on Saturday that a “new model” to manage the tensions in the shoal had been approved by officials from the Department of National Defense (DND) and the national security adviser.

“I would like to clearly state that any insinuation that the Department of National Defense is a party to any ‘new model’ is a devious machination of China through their Embassy in Manila,” Teodoro said in a statement.

“It is curious that it comes right after their actions were condemned in the recent SQUAD meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii,” he added, referring to his May 2 meeting at the Indo-Pacific Command headquarters with defense chiefs of the United States, Japan and Australia.

Teodoro reiterated that he had disallowed any contact between the DND and the Chinese Embassy since Ambassador Huang Xilian’s courtesy call in July 2023.

“During the said courtesy call, there was no discussion or briefing on any ‘gentleman’s agreement’ or ‘new model,’ which is contrary to the Chinese Embassy’s pronouncements,” he stressed, adding, “This charade must stop.”

Año also said he had not met with any official from the embassy since the Chinese ambassador called on him early last year as he dismissed the claim as “absolutely absurd, ludicrous and preposterous.”

“I have not talked to any official from the Chinese Embassy directly or indirectly on any matter, much more to discuss any arrangement or deal with regards to our rightful and routinary resupply operations in Ayungin Shoal,” he said.

“No one in the Philippine government is, nor have been, empowered nor authorized to enter into or commit to any sort of agreement, understanding, or arrangement — more so informal ones, by our President,” he added.

‘Another falsehood’

Teodoro said the latest claim by Beijing’s embassy in Manila was a “clear attempt by China to advance another falsehood in order to divide our people and distract us from their unlawful presence and actions in our exclusive economic zone.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs, in a separate statement, called on China to stop spreading “such disinformation or insinuations against Philippine officials, which create confusion among the Filipino public and distract from the real issues created by China’s unfounded claims and illegal and aggressive actions in our waters.”

“If China is serious about properly managing the differences at sea, we urge China to favorably consider the standing Philippine invitation to convene the next meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism on the South China Sea as soon as possible,” it said.

In a speech last Friday, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo also spoke for the first time on China’s recent claims about supposed informal agreements with the Philippine government regarding the West Philippine Sea.

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“In our view, this is a masterful manipulation that in decades past could be defeated by a clear statement from a person of trust and authority. The President has already said it as clearly as it can possibly be said,” Manalo said, referring to President Marcos’ earlier remarks saying he was not aware of any arrangement with China and was rescinding such a deal if it existed.


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