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Manila and Hanoi have Reached an Agreement to Enhance the Management of Maritime Disputes

Displeased with the slow progress in developing a regional maritime code-of-conduct with China, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is currently exploring cooperation with neighboring South China Sea claimant states to enhance regional security collaboration. This endeavor aims to possibly create a united front against Beijing amidst rising tensions in contested waters.

Making an initial move in this direction, the Philippines entered into two memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on security with Vietnam on Tuesday. These agreements not only seek to strengthen coastguard cooperation but also work towards minimizing the potential for undesirable incidents in the South China Sea, where both nations have overlapping claims.

Signed on the final day of President Marcos’ two-day state visit to Hanoi, the agreements have the objective of “improving coordination on maritime issues bilaterally, within the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and with other dialogue partners,” according to the Philippine presidential office. The statement underscores the commitment of both parties to escalate efforts in “fostering trust” through dialogues and joint activities.

At the same time, Manila and Hanoi have agreed to establish a hotline between their respective coastguards and create a joint coast guard committee to address mutual concerns and interests. Despite marking notable progress in policy coordination, experts argue that these agreements do not fully align with Marcos’ proposal for an “informal” bilateral code-of-conduct. They assert that there is currently limited enthusiasm among other claimant states to risk provoking China and potentially derailing broader discussions on a maritime security deal with Beijing.

Throughout the visit, both parties entered into several agreements encompassing cultural exchange, trade, and investments. Notably, a significant accord on rice trade was also achieved to aid Manila in managing supply concerns during times of crisis.

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