PH, Vietnam agree on 6-year strategic partnership

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Hanoi, Vietnam — Cabinet members and members of the Philippine delegation in Vietnam who witnessed President Rodrigo Duterte's meeting with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang, said their talk was fruitful.

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay announced that the Philippines and Vietnam have agreed on a six-year strategic partnership that would include rice trade, agricultural information exchanges, construction, and oil and gas exploration among others.

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said both leaders agreed "to level up the trade" that the two countries already have.

"At least we have an assurance that Vietnam will help us with the supply.  Walang agreement pinirmahan [There was no agreement signed] at least for the next two years, but there is a mutual understanding that rice requirements that we would have can be supplied also from Vietnam," Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez told the media.

According to Lopez, Duterte himself also asked his Vietnamese counterpart for cooperation "to consider importing products from the Philippines as we import rice from Vietnam."

Lopez said Duterte also invited investors from Vietnam, and assured that their investments are safe in the Philippines and contracts will be honored.

"The President actually thanked the President of Vietnam for really providing a good, you know, a good environment for the Filipino workers here in Vietnam. So nagpasalamat ang ating Presidente din doon," Lopez said. "And of course, ganon din 'yung gina-guarantee niya sa mga pupunta rin sa bansa natin." [He also guarantees the same for those who will go to our country.]

For agriculture, Lopez said Vietnam vowed to continue exporting quality rice to the Philippines.

Vietnam, on the other hand, would benefit from the Philippines on the aspect of construction and oil and gas exploration.

"This is what the President also mentioned, food and food preparations, high-value processed agriculture products, furniture, metal fabrication… the President also talked about the beautiful, fine furniture that we have. So there's a lot of new potentials for the exportation to Vietnam," he added.

Yasay, meanwhile said both countries, insofar as maritime cooperation is concerned, have agreed to pursue bilateral negotiations "to see what kind of agreement we could pursue for the mutual interest of both countries."

Both Philippines and Vietnam have maritime territorial disputes with China.

"Incidentally, when we say maritime cooperation, it also includes among other things, in making sure that the maritime environment and health is put back there in the light of certain distractions that have been made. This is an interest not only of Vietnam and the Philippines, but an interest and concern of the entire international community," Yasay said.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who is part of the Philippine delegation in Vietnam, said they could not reveal some confidential information in the ongoing negotiations of the two countries.

But he said President Duterte has expressed the need for solidarity among the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries.

"We think and we respect 'di ba, foreign powers, world powers? But isn't it better if we open doors and start talking," said Cayetano. [We think and we respect foreign powers, world powers right?]

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Cayetano said, Vietnam's president responded positively, quoting him as saying: "We should do this through the principles of ASEAN."

"If there [are] criticisms of how he speaks in general or how he rattles some diplomatic relations through press cons or speeches, the individual leaders that he has one-on-one continuously praises him for the candidness, truthfulness, openness so I think in much less time, much more are being done," said Cayetano.

Duterte is in Vietnam for a two-day working visit since Wednesday.

He is accompanied by Official Delegation DFA Sec. Perfecto Yasay, DTI Sec. Ramon Lopez, Justice Sec. Vitaliano Aguirre, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Senators Cayetano and Francis Escudero, PCO Sec. Martin Andanar, Cabinet Sec. Leoncio Evasco, and Philippine Ambassador to Vietnam Noel Servigon.

Duterte assures full protection of OFWs from abuses

Citing their invaluable contributions to nation-building, President Duterte has promised to shield overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from abuses and corruption.

Speaking before the Filipino Community in Vietnam Wednesday night, Duterte vowed to eliminate red tape and corruption in government agencies like the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

"You guys when you go home, there will be changes. There will be no harassments in the Immigration and Customs. I will not allow that," the President said.

"I'm telling everybody, every meeting in the Cabinet: This will be a clean government. Let us give the Filipino a respite of the agony and suffering," he added.

Duterte said corruption in agencies dealing with OFWs would become "a thing in the past" under his administration.

He encouraged OFWs to report any form of abuses, assuring them of prompt action.

Davao-based journalist Ben Tesiorna contributed to this report.

Also read: Duterte to meet Abe to further strengthen Japan-PH ties