Marcos Jr-Chinh reviving dormant de facto alliance to check, balance and challenge China in disputed and militarized waters
By RICHARD JAVAD HEYDARIAN MAY 25, 2023 Asia Times
MANILA – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has not only revitalized defense ties with traditional Western allies but has also doubled down on strategic cooperation with like-minded regional states pushing back against China’s South China Sea assertiveness.
In particular, Vietnam has emerged as a pivotal player in the Philippines’ emerging regional strategy to constrain and roll back China’s ambitions in the hotly contested and geostrategically crucial maritime area.
Earlier this month, Marcos Jr held his third high-level meeting with a Vietnamese official in his first year in office.
During his meetings with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on the sidelines of the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related summits in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, the two leaders vowed to enhance strategic cooperation with an emphasis on the South China Sea.
Specifically, the Filipino leader advocated for effective agreements that prevent accidental clashes between the two sides, including their fishermen, in the disputed waters.
“I have asked our foreign ministers – our foreign secretary and then the foreign minister of Vietnam – to begin talks so that we can have an agreement so there will be no more problems like this,” Marcos Jr told the media.
The following week, the two countries held a Joint Permanent Working Group on Maritime and Ocean Concerns (JWG-MOC), where they underscored their commitment to jointly advocate for a “substantive” bilateral Code of Conduct (COC) on the South China Sea.
Among those in attendance were senior diplomats as well as Filipino officials from all relevant agencies, including the Philippine Coast Guard, National Security Council, Department of National Defense and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
With Vietnam broadly supporting the Philippines’ landmark arbitration award victory against China at The Hague in 2016, the two sides also agreed “to work together to protect their rights and legitimate interests under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and enhance confidence-building measures between relevant agencies.”
The two ASEAN nations also underscored their commitment to a full range of cooperative activities in the South China Sea, including marine environment protection, search and rescue; fisheries management; oil spill preparedness and response; and marine scientific research.