40 Years of Vietnam-Philippines Relations Towards Comprehensive Cooperation

9:40:32 AM | 7/11/2016

Enjoying steady bilateral relations since diplomatic ties established in 1976, Vietnam and the Philippines are now entering into a new phase of strategic partnership. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Vietnam-Philippines diplomatic ties, Vietnam Business Forum Magazine has an interview with Mrs Le Thi Phung, Honorary Consul General of the Philippines in Ho Chi Minh City. Le Phuong reports.
How do you evaluate Vietnam-Philippines trade and investment cooperation relations after 40 years of diplomatic ties?
Vietnam – Philippines relations have been deeply well-developed after 40 years of diplomatic ties. Politically, both countries have exchanged many high-profile visits including the recent State visit of President Truong Tan Sang to the Philippines in November 2015, the visit of Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario to Hanoi in October 2015.
November 17, 2015 marked a new milestone for Vietnam and the Philippines when both countries signed a joint statement to establish a strategic partnership. This made Vietnam become the third strategic partner of the Philippines after the US and Japan.
In terms of trade, in 2014, two-way trade between both countries reached US$1.63 billion. The Philippines remains one of the largest rice importers of Vietnam with an amount of 1.5 million metric tons in 2014. On the visit to Philippines in November 2015, President Truong Tan Sang and President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino have witnessed the handover of a protocol supplementing the rice trading agreement between both countries for 2014-2016.
Many Vietnamese goods have been flooded in supermarkets in the Philippines including rice, coffee, instant noodle and peanut.
In terms of investment, according to the statistics from the Ministry of Planning and Investment (2014), investment value of the Philippines in Vietnam reached US$294 million. Many investment projects have been very successful in Southern Vietnam including Liwayway Joint Stock Company, Philippines Airlines, San Miguel Group, Universal Robina Corporation. Especially, United International Pharma has established four factories in Vietnam including a US$40 million factory in Binh Duong producing pharmaceutical products for local use and export.
The establishment of Vietnam-Philippines Friendship Association on July 29, 2014 also presented an aspiration of both countries to cement and develop our relationship and understanding. This also marked a new development in the friendship and solidarity of relations, and of course to boost both sides’ partnership. It also helps to promote mutual understanding between the two people and expand bilateral cooperation opportunities, especially in tourism, trade, culture, education – to name a few.
With a stable increase in two – way trade volume in recent years, both countries have set a target of USS$ 3 billion two way trade in 2016.
In addition, the Filipino community in Vietnam, especially in HCMC, continues to increase in recent years. 6 years ago when I was appointed as Honorary Consul General of the Philippines in HCMC, there was about 3,500 Filipino people in Vietnam, the number is now over 5000. This is a clear proof that Vietnam is a safe and attractive destination for Filipino people. Many Filipino musicians and singers have been dominating local music scene at popular restaurants, bars and hotels in Vietnam.
With the establishment of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at end of 2015, what challenges or opportunities do you see for both countries in the coming time?
In the context of a continuously changing world with many FTAs concluded, trade has been much easier than before. I think that Vietnam and the Philippines have many opportunities to cooperate in the future. The problem is how both countries prepare for seizing the upcoming opportunities from global integration.
A challenge for Vietnam-Philippine investment cooperation lies on geography. As you may know, Philippines is prone to various climate and weather-related hazards, and it is tough for Vietnamese companies to invest in the Philippines. Besides, human resources and raw materials can be a challenge in the Philippines. Vietnam is also facing difficulty in training high quality human resources, although Vietnamese people are also well-known for being hard-working, warm hospitality and intelligence.
If both countries can soon address the above issues, I think the cooperation potential for both countries is huge. In addition, I suppose that the two nations need to maintain current cooperation mechanisms and increase their sharing of information and experience in all fields.
In what sectors do you think Vietnam and Philippines can strengthen cooperation in the future?
Both Vietnam and the Philippines are still primary agricultural countries despite both sides’ plans to become industrialised countries. Most citizens of both countries still live in rural areas and support themselves through agriculture. Like Vietnam, the Philippines has been exporting many agricultural products around the world, including the US, Japan and Europe.
I think agriculture is the sector that both sides can strengthen cooperation for mutual benefits because agriculture is our common strengths, rice is not only the main product for agricultural cooperation, but also coffee and peanut. The agricultural cooperation between Vietnam and the Philippines will also partly address the shortage of food as new warning on global food security of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
In addition, education is another potential sector for cooperation of both sides. With the establishment of AEC, ASEAN has become a single market and production base, the need for English language services will be crucial. This is an opportunity for the Philippines to work with Vietnam in the field of education, particularly in English language skills training because English is also the second-language in the Philippines. The Philippines has been cooperating with Tra Vinh province to provide English speaking teachers.
In the coming time, the Philippines will continue to promote new projects on human resource education and training, some universities of the Philippines have been discussing with Vietnamese partners to seek potential cooperation opportunities.
2016 is the first year of implementation of Vietnam-Philippines strategic partnership, how will this partnership impact both countries’ cooperation in this year?
Based on this strategic partnership, I think that Vietnam and Philippines will further intensify their economic cooperation. Vietnam is seen to be a bright investment spot in Southeast Asia, with advantages for the Philippines. Philippines-Vietnam economic relations could further progress when mutually favourable conditions for the entry and expansion of investments, in accordance with respective laws and regulations, are created and maintained. The strategic partnership will surely bear fruits for the peoples of both countries in the years ahead.
This strategic partnership is also expected to urge both sides to cooperate more closely in many areas. It will open doors to broaden both countries’ people to people relationships as well.