Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Tuesday said members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must manage geopolitical tensions to ensure uninterrupted development in the Indo-Pacific region.
Since the region is now “an engine of global growth,” Manalo said the regional bloc must do this because of four realities it holds.
These are: ASEAN is the core of the region, the dynamics of the region is being shaped by its many members, a rules-based order must be anchored for peace and stability, and anxieties on geopolitical tensions must not detract the region’s pursuit.
Speaking in Vietnam for the Joint Commission for Bilateral Commission (JCBC), Manalo said such points were the reason why Manila and Hanoi “are setting the course of our Strategic Partnership.”
“By its very foundation, our strategic partnership claims our stake and agency in defining the future of our region,” he said.
“It underlines a high level of mutual confidence, trust, and respect: between us and in what our relationship can do for the good of our region,” he said.
Manalo said Vietnam, in particular, “holds a special place in Philippine foreign relations,” as it is one of the country’s two “Strategic Partners” and the only one within ASEAN.
“The establishment of this Strategic Partnership in 2015 was pivotal, for it reoriented our ties to be more forward-looking in its approach, and strategic in its outlook,” he said.
Manalo said the Philippines and Vietnam must work together, in the context of their strategic partnership, to keep the Indo-Pacific away from disputes. The two countries are claimant states in parts of the South China Sea, a part of the Indo-Pacific, against China.
“Our Strategic Partnership must affirm that we are invested in keeping the seas open and free for the enjoyment of our peoples, and that disputes must be managed and resolved peacefully in accordance with international norms and laws, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea,” he said.
“Along these lines and until the resolution of these disputes, the Philippines and Vietnam share a distinctive responsibility in working to achieve a substantive and effective Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, and seeing to its conclusion at the earliest opportunity,” he added.