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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

PH-Vietnam cooperation on SCS row

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In January this year, the Philippines and Vietnam agreed to boost cooperation between their coast guards and work to prevent incidents in disputed parts of the South China Sea amid growing Chinese assertiveness in the vital sealane.

The two, which have overlapping maritime claims in the sea, signed two memoranda of understanding.

The first agreement covered “maritime cooperation” between the two nations’ coast guards and the second “incident prevention in the South China Sea.”

The maritime cooperation deal seeks to establish a comprehensive partnership between the two coast guards, which would cover capacity building, training, and personnel and ship exchanges.

The deal on incident prevention binds the two countries to enhance coordination on maritime issues bilaterally, within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and with other dialogue partners.

While these agreements indicate shared interests between the two in managing the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Hanoi is not expected to follow Manila’s defiant stand against Chinese intimidation and bullying in its Exclusive Economic Zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Nevertheless, as neighboring countries, the Philippines and Vietnam should work more closely to push back against China’s “coercive activities” in the South China Sea, according to a foreign analyst.

After all, our two countries are vulnerable to China’s “divide and rule” tactic, according to a news report quoting Alex Vuving, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies based in Hawaii.

“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.

Why is this so? He explained: “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.”

Given all this, the Philippines is on the right path in its efforts to muster support from friendly countries such as Vietnam in dealing with China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea and to protect our mutual interests in the Southeast Asian region.

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