Press Briefing by DFA Spokesperson Asec. Charles Jose
Press Briefing Room, New Executive Building, Malacanang, Manila
26 September 2016


ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Good morning to everyone. I would like to brief you on the President’s visit to Vietnam.

As part of his introductory visits to close neighbors in the region, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will conduct an official visit to Vietnam from the 28th to the 29th of September 2016.

While in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, the President is scheduled to meet with the state President Trần Đại Quang and pay a courtesy call on other top leaders of the Vietnamese government.

Preparations have also been made for a meeting with the Filipino community in Vietnam who are expected to travel to Hanoi from various parts of the country. There are an estimated 3,800 Filipinos in Vietnam.

It is expected that the President and the Vietnamese leaders will discuss various areas of bilateral exchanges including maritime cooperation, enhancement of law enforcement and defense cooperation, increasing two-way trade and investments, strengthening of joint cultural activities, as well heightened exchanges in agriculture and fisheries.

The leaders are also expected to exchange views on regional and international issues. The relations between the two countries have been growing and deepening steadily since formal ties were established on July 12, 1976.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The President’s visit to Vietnam at this time will add to the various commemorative activities being done by both the Philippines and Vietnam to celebrate this historical milestone.

Moreover, the President’s visit will also be an opportunity to solidify the strategic partnership between the two countries.

In speaking with the Vietnam leadership, the President and his counterparts will be able to set the direction and specific activities to be pursued in line with the vision of the joint statement on the establishment of a strategic partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which was signed in Manila in November 2015.

Initial meeting between the President and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc was held at the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit and Related Summits on September 6 to 8, 2016 in Vientiane, Laos.


Pia Ranada (Rappler): Good morning, sir. I am Pia from Rappler. Sir, earlier Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said that President Duterte will likely bring up the South China Sea dispute during the visit. It this true? Can you confirm this? And, sir, will it also be…Will the possible joint venture that President Duterte has been talking about for — since the campaign also be discussed?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Well, the President will be prepared to discuss the South China Sea issue.

If ever this will be discussed, this will be in the context of, of course, emphasizing the need or the importance of maintaining, peace, stability, security in the region.

And it will be in the context of reaffirming our firm commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes and our adherence to the rule of law, and the same time to reiterate our commitment also to continue working with ASEAN for the full and effective implementation of the 2005 DOC and for the early conclusion of the legally-binding Code of Conduct.

Ms. Ranada: Sir, President Duterte also mentioned before the joint venture agreement with China, and before he mentioned in the Arroyo administration a joint venture was ventured upon or was suggested between China, Philippines and Vietnam. So is it on the table? Is it up for discussion a possible joint venture between the two — among the three countries in Vietnam?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: I don’t think that will be discussed at this visit. Maybe initial discussion at the working level, maybe.

Jona Viray (Asahi Shimbun): Good morning, sir. Jona from Asahi Shimbun. Will we initiate…Will the Philippines initiate discussions on the South China Sea and will we be raising the settlement of the UN arbitral court during the discussions in Vietnam?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Like I mentioned ‘no, if ever the issue — the South China Sea issue be discussed, it will be in the context of, like I said, emphasizing the importance of maintaining peace and in the context of our — reiteration of our firm commitment to the principles ‘no: peaceful settlement and adherence to the rule of law; and at the same time, continuing working closely with ASEAN for the DOC and COC.

Ms. Viray: But will we initiate the discussions or will we just react to it when Vietnam raises the topic?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Well, either way ‘no, the President will be prepared to discuss the issue.

Mikhail Flores (Nikkei): Good morning Asec. Charles. Mikhail po of Nikkei. Sir, how significant is Vietnam still in the South China Sea discussion considering that we seem to be adopting a bilateral approach to resolving the disputes instead of a multilateral one. So, what’s the way forward when it comes to the South China Sea issue when we discuss it or if it is brought up with our counterparts in Vietnam?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Well, Vietnam’s role in the South China Sea remains to be significant. First of all, because Vietnam is a claimant country to the overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea. And, of course, secondly, Vietnam is a member of ASEAN.

Way forward, of course, we are working on both levels bilaterally with China and, of course, at the regional level working closely with ASEAN in our effort to build trust and confidence, lower tension, and promoting peace, security, and stability in the region.

Mr. Flores: Sir, but what will be our focus? Is it bilateral option or the multilateral discussion considering that we are considering both. But obviously there are contentions between the two approaches.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: It’s important to work with equal effort ‘no at these two levels. For example, the arbitral award in and of itself will not solve the dispute. It will serve as a foundation on which we could start negotiations, which eventually would lead to the resolution of the dispute.

So that’s at the bilateral level and the government — this administration has already made clear that we would like to go into direct talks with China, at the same time, is also to work — important to work with at the regional level, together with ASEAN.

On this issue, we would like to maintain ASEAN’s centrality as a driving force behind the developments in the South China Sea.

Ms. Viray: Sir, again. Good morning again. After Vietnam, the President is scheduled to visit Japan and China. Could you just tell us if there are any tentative dates that you’re working on for these two countries and if ever what would the choice of country… I mean, what’s the significance in case China or Japan, you know, is the first — would be the first non-ASEAN country that the President will visit. What statement does that make?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Well, I cannot say much about this ‘no because I think we’re still working on the President’s schedule, with regard to his succeeding visits to other countries.

So, we’re still working on this. Let’s wait and see ‘no on what will be the President’s next schedule of visits.

Ms. Viray: Because the DTI Secretary previously said that he will — the President is scheduled to visit Japan towards the end of October, that we’re still working on that tentative date?


Ms. Viray: And then how about China? Will it come before or after Japan? What dates are we working on at least?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: We’re still working on those dates. So we’re still in discussion with Japan on the dates to visit to Japan and also in consultations with China on the dates of the visit to China.

Mr. Flores: Sir, on the strategic partnership, you mentioned that you intend to solidify this one when the President visits Vietnam. Can you expound on what do you mean by solidify? What outcome documents or what statements will we be expecting with respect to this one? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Well, if you will recall, we elevated our relationship with Vietnam to a strategic partnership. That… The statement was signed in November 2015 at the sidelines of our hosting of APEC.

And, of course, we have identified areas of cooperation that we would like to strengthen with Vietnam, particularly on the economy, agriculture, fisheries, defense and maritime cooperation.

So this visit will be…Of course, the President is not expected to discuss the details of this but it will be more of a policy statement.

We have an action plan on how to implement the strategic partnership. So it will be a reiteration of our commitment to this strategic partnership with Vietnam.

Q: Hi, Asec. Charles. For the succeeding trips of President Duterte, China and Japan, why these two countries? Did it come from the Palace or the DFA make recommendations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JOSE: Well, I’m not aware of the President not aware of what led to the decision.

But all I can say is that we’re still in consultation with these countries as well as with the other members of ASEAN on the most convenient date for the visit — for the President to visit their countries.