Amidst South China Sea tensions, Vietnam and the Philippines agreed to strengthen coastguard cooperation

The South China Sea remains a focal point of international concern, with China asserting expansive territorial claims over the entire waterway. However, this claim is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, and several other countries laying competing assertions over various islands, islets, reefs, and shoals within the region.

Vietnam and the Philippines have forged an agreement to boost coastguard cooperation amid tensions in the South China Sea. The accord, reached on Tuesday, emphasizes the two nations’ commitment to fostering regional stability as Manila finds itself entangled in a hot dispute with Beijing over a strategically important reef.

The South China Sea remains a focal point of international concern, with China asserting expansive territorial claims over the entire waterway. However, this claim is contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, and several other countries laying competing assertions over various islands, islets, reefs, and shoals within the region.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have escalated recently, fueled by a series of confrontations between vessels from both nations. The hotly disputed area, particularly around the Second Thomas Shoal, known as Ren’ai Shoal in Beijing, has become a flashpoint for maritime disagreements.

The agreement between Vietnam and the Philippines to bolster coastguard cooperation is a strategic response to the delicate situation in the South China Sea. The move’s primary objective is to strengthen maritime security and promote stability in the region. While China maintains an almost all-encompassing claim over the South China Sea, the collaborative efforts of countries like Vietnam and the Philippines signify a united front against unilateral assertions.

Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, the President of the Philippines signed two deals with Vietnam. He agreed to set up a communication hotline and work on a joint coastguard committee to discuss familiar issues. Marcos’ office in a statement asserted, “The MOU (memorandum of understanding) on maritime cooperation is aimed at strengthening the understanding, mutual trust and confidence between the two parties.”

As the United States and the Philippines carried out their joint exercises in the South China Sea, China held military drills in the same waters, earlier this month. These drills were followed by a month of tense stand-offs between both China and the Philippines, leading to a collision between vessels from both countries and Chinese ships blasting water cannons at the boats from the Philippines.

Vietnam agreed on a five-year trade commitment, during the two-day visit of President Marcos. This agreement stated to supply up to two million tones of white rice to the Philippines to ensure food security, adding to which the statement said, “amid the impact of climate change, pandemics, and other external events.”

The situation surrounding the South China Sea remains fluid, and the collaborative efforts of nations in the region, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, play a crucial role in shaping the future dynamics of one of the world’s most strategically significant maritime areas.