By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
SINGAPORE — Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc praised President Duterte on the way he handled the Philippines’ issue with China on the disputed South China Sea.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement following Duterte’s bilateral meeting with the Vietnamese leader on the sidelines of the 32nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore Friday evening.
Roque, in a press briefing, said that the issue was raised by Nguyễn in an attempt to get the support of the Philippines in its joint filing for an extended continental shelf with Malaysia in the disputed waters.
“Ang Vietnam naman ay humingi ng tulong dahil meron silang (Vietnam asked for help because they have a) joint submission for an extended continental shelf with Malaysia,” he said.
Roque quoted Nguyễn as having said: “We [Vietnam] will learn from his [President Duterte’s] handling of China. The President handled China very well.”
He said that Nguyễn’s remarks might open the possibilities of cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam in portions of the South China Sea.
“Ang sabi po ng Vietnam, hinahangaan po nila ang naging posisyon ng Pilipinas pagdating sa China sa usapin ng West Philippine Sea. At dahil diyan magkakaroon ng mas madaming kooperasyon sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at ng Vietnam tungkol nga dito sa West Philippine Sea (Vietnam said that they admire the Philippine position in the issue of the West Philippine Sea and how we handled China. And because of that, there will be more cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam in the disputed waters),” Roque said.
He said Duterte told Nguyễn that he will study how the Philippines can help Vietnam in its pursuit in the South China Sea.
“He will study the option on how the Philippines can be involved in the ongoing joint claim for an extended continental shelf between Vietnam and Malaysia,” Roque said.
Rice and security
During the bilateral meeting Friday afternoon, the two leaders also discussed the Philippines’ purchase of rice from Vietnam.
“Vietnam maintained that they will supply us with rice if we need it and they will give us good quality rice at a low price,” Roque said in Filipino.
He said Duterte agreed with Nguyen in saying that Vietnamese rice “is indeed of good quality.”
Roque said that the two leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation when it comes to security between the two countries.
Duterte thanked Vietnam for being kind to the Filipinos working in their country and appealed for the repatriation of a certain Rommel Aleria who had been detained in Vietnam since 2016 for alleged illegal cross-border recruitment.
Duterte also assured Nguyễn that he will not stop until he catches the Abu Sayyaf Group who kidnapped six Vietnamese sailors off Sibago Island in Basilan in November, 2016.
Defense and building
Indonesian Prime Minister Joko Widodo also held bilateral talks with President Duterte, discussing in particular – modern-day terrorism and extremism.
Roque said the two leaders talked about “increased security, fight against illegal drugs and transnational crimes, and implementation of trilateral maritime and air patrols with Indonesia and Malaysia.”
Duterte also reportedly underscored the importance for both the Philippines and Indonesia to remain resolute in the fight against violent extremism while addressing both the symptoms and causes of terrorism.
He also expressed his aim to further trade agreements with Indonesia and invite Indonesians to participate in the government’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build!” infrastructure program.