May 28 ------ The Philippines and Vietnam have agreed to settle their respective territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea through peaceful means. President Duterte discussed the South China Sea conflict and the importance of keeping peace and stability in the region with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in a phone call Tuesday night (May 26). “President Duterte and Prime Minister Phuc reiterated their commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea,” read a Malacañang press statement about the phone call requested by the Vietnamese leader.
The two leaders also recognized the roles of their countries in promoting security and stability in the South China Sea, according to the Palace. “The Philippines and Viet Nam reaffirmed the shared commitment to pursue peace, security, and stability in the South China Sea,” it said. The Philippines and Vietnam are among the nations locked in a years-long dispute with China in the resource-rich South China Sea. Vietnam has taken a more vocal stance against China’s alleged intrusion into its waters. Recently, Vietnam protested China’s reported fishing ban in the disputed waters but Beijing insisted the area is part of its territory.
The Philippines, on other hand, has decided to pursue a bilateral dialogue with China to manage the territorial conflict while stepping up economic and security cooperation under the Duterte administration. In the phone call with Duterte, the Prime Minister noted that the Philippines has “played well the role of Country Coordinator of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-China relations.”
Duterte, for his part, has committed that the Philippines will continue to support the ASEAN endeavors, citing Vietnam’s chairmanship of the regional group. “As Country Coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue, the Philippines is actively pushing for the conclusion of a binding, effective, and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at the soonest possible time,” the Palace said.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea and has stepped up reclamation works in the area in recent years, drawing protests from other claimant nations. Four ASEAN member-nations namely the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam also have claims in the area. The proposed set of rules governing the conduct of parties passing the disputed waterway is still being negotiated by the ASEAN and China.