Vietnam, Philippine defense chiefs agree to pursue Code of Conduct on South China Sea

By Francis Wakefield

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that he and his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich both agreed to pursue the Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea to avoid tension in the disputed waters.

Lorenzana made the remark following his three-day visit in Hanoi from March 10 to March 13, 2019.

(L-R)  Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Vietnam's Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich (PHOTO COURTESY OF OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE / WIKIMEDIA / MANILA BULLETIN)
(L-R) Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich (PHOTO COURTESY OF OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE / WIKIMEDIA / MANILA BULLETIN)

He said their discussion also touched on the importance of the Code of Conduct which he said should be pursued in the soonest possible time.

“How to navigate the issue in the face of Chinese increased activity. We both agreed that the Code of Conduct (COC) should be pursued and concluded in the fastest time possible,” Lorenzana said.

The Vietnamese News Agency was earlier quoted as saying that both Vietnam and the Philippines Defense Ministers agreed Monday to further foster defense cooperation, primarily mutual support in multilateral forums, as well as collaboration in military industry and medicine.

Lorenzana also reiterated that the Philippines will support the hosting of Defense Conferences when Hanoi takes over the ASEAN presidency in 2020. As a result of the bilateral talks, both Asian nations will also increase the young officers exchange, and expand collaboration on unconventional security.

Lorenzana made a working visit to the Vietnam Military Telecommunications Group (Viettel) on Monday, and placed a wreath in front of the monument dedicated to President Ho Chi Minh.

In 2015, Vietnam and the Philippines raised their links to the level of strategic partnership.

The 10 ASEAN leaders in November last year agreed to officially start the COC negotiations, citing the calmer situation in the disputed waters. The countries that have claims in the South China Sea are China, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

The Philippines vowed to take an active role in the COC negotiations when it assumed the role of coordinator of the ASEAN-China dialogue partnership until 2021.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said that the COC is not meant to resolve the disputes among the claimants, but is meant to manage incidents and prevent incidents that may escalate or create situations that may complicate peace and stability in the region from happening.