Vietnam and the Philippines began discussions on the establishment of a Strategic Partnership during the January 29-30 visit to the Philippines by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

During the visit, made at the invitation of Foreign Minister Albert F. del Rosario, the Vietnamese and Philippine Ministers co-chaired a meeting of the Vietnam-Philippines Joint Commission on reaching a Strategic Partnership agreement.

At the meeting, the two sides noted that bilateral relations between the Philippines and Vietnam are growing in various aspects, including in politics, trade and investment, fisheries, marine and oceanic affairs, defense and security cooperation, and others.

The two sides expressed delight at the stable growth of their trade, hitting 2.8 billion USD in 2014. They agreed to resume meetings of the sub-committees on trade cooperation to seek ways to increase trade value to over 3 billion USD.

Both sides affirmed the importance of their rice trading affiliation, while agreeing to continue enhancing collaboration in maritime-ocean affairs, including effectively realising agreements in fisheries, search and rescue, and coping with ocean oil spills.

Deputy PM Minh thanked the Philippines for its friendly and humanitarian approach to issues related to Vietnamese fishermen and boats, creating favourable conditions for the fishermen to return home safely.

Regarding the East Sea issue, the two Ministers expressed their concern over the ongoing large-scale encroachment activities that pose threats to peace and stability in the region as well as to the lives of many people across coastal states in the East Sea.

The two Ministers agreed that the parties concerned should adhere to the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), conclude a Code of Conduct (COC) in view of the urgency of the issue, and exercise restraint from undertaking any action that may escalate tension in the East Sea. The two Ministers reaffirmed that disputes in the East Sea should be solved by peaceful measures in accordance with international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

They reiterated their commitment to continued bilateral and multilateral cooperation towards the establishment of the ASEAN Community as well as upholding the centrality and unity of the ASEAN in the evolving regional architecture.

The two Ministers also reaffirmed the invaluable friendship between the Philippines and Vietnam and the importance of their partnership in the ASEAN.

During his stay, Deputy PM Minh paid a courtesy call to Vice President Jejomar Binay and met with the CEO of the Metro Manila Group. He also laid a wreath at the President Ho Chi Minh Monument at the ASEAN Park in Manila.-VNA