Highlights of Viet Nam-Philippines relationship during my term

Contributing to upgrading the Viet Nam-Philippines bilateral relations to Strategic partnership, establishing the Friendship Association, promoting economic cooperation and creating breakthroughs in citizen protections…were among the most memorable impressions in my tenure as the Ambassador of Vietnam to the Philippines (2013 – 2017).
Chủ tịch nước Trương Tấn Sang và Tổng thống Philippines Benigno Aquino II chứng kiến lễ ký thỏa thuận thiết lập Đối tác Chiến lược giữa Việt Nam và Philippines tại Manila, ngày 17/11/2015. (Ảnh: TTXVN)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino II and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang witnessed the signing ceremony ò the joint statement on the establishment of the strategic partnership between the two countries on November 17, 2015. (Source: VNA)

Arriving in the Philippines, it did not take long for me to realize that the country, due to its strategic reasons of security, defense and economic development, had only established strategic partnership with the US and Japan. For decades, the Philippines did not have strategic partnerships with any other countries, including ASEAN’s members.

An upgrade of the bilateral relations

As a result, I immediately recognized the importance of upgrading the Vietnam-Philippines bilateral relations. As former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung arrived in the country to attend the World Economic Forum in East Asia in 2014, I took my chance to report about the current state of the relations, emphasizing the fact that Vietnam and Philippines have not been able to establish a strategic partnership. Listening closely to my words on the significance and importance of such issues, specifically in the context of increasingly complex situations on the East Sea, the Prime Minister had directed me, the Embassy and the Ministry to further promote negotiations on the establishment of strategic partnership.

After that, during his next meeting, he had actively raised this issue and received the support of the late Filipino President Benigno Aquino.

As the two leaders agreed to establish a joint working group to implement the initiation, the process of building roadmap and beginning negotiations started on May 2014 and lasted for more than a year. On the occasion of former President Truong Tan Sang’s visit to the APEC Summit, the two countries officially signed the agreement of establishing Strategic partnership in November 17th, 2015. Since then, the Philippines has had strategic partnership with only three countries – US, Japan and Vietnam.

In January 10th, 2017, I came to bid farewell to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte at the Presidential Palace. After a discussion over a range of issues, President Duterte announced that the Government of the Philippines had decided to award me the Order of Sikatuna, Grand Cross-Gold Distinction. The President’s Spokesperson read the Decision on the Medal, explaining my contributions in promoting the Vietnam-Philippines bilateral relations, including the efforts toward establishing the strategic partnership.

An impression on the Friendship Association

Since the establishment of the Viet Nam – Philippines diplomatic relations in 1976 to 2013, the beginning of my time in Philippines, the two countries have not had a friendship association.

Identifying people-to-people diplomacy is an important channel in promoting bilateral relations, I have immediately started initiating the establishment of a Vietnam – Philippines Friendship Association. I have spent time with some well-known figures in Filipino politics such as former Filipino President Fidel Ramos, the first Filipino Miss Universe, journalist Gemma Teresa Cruz, retired Senators as well as Spokesperson of Filipino’s Department of Foreign Affairs…I raised the issue and further emphasized the importance and significance of establishing a friendship association. My suggestions were warmly welcomed.

Tổng thống Philippines Rodrigo Duterte trao tặng Huân chương Sikatuna hạng Vàng cho Đại sứ Trương Triều Dương, ngày 10/1/2017. (Ảnh: NVCC)
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte conferred the Order of Sikatuna to Ambassador Truong Trieu Duong, on January 10, 2017. (Ảnh: NVCC)

Seven months later, on June 29th, 2014, the Philippines-Viet Nam Friendship Association in the Philippines was established, followed by the Vietnam-Philippines Friendship Association in Vietnam. Former Filipino President Fidel Ramos read the opening speech. The Executive Committee of the Philippines-Viet Nam Friendship Association consisted of well-known figures, many of those in the communication sector. Namely, the former Chairman of the Philippines-Viet Nam Friendship Association was the late Senator Eddie Ilarde, who used to be the MC of the Philippines radio station GMA. The current Chairman Louis Arriola is the editor-in-chief of the ASEAN Times.

With their reputations, members of the Executive Committee have successfully directed many agendas on promoting the image of Vietnam, creating positive effects on bringing the images of Vietnam and its people to the Philippines. In addition, along with exchange and collaborative actions of the two Friendship Associations, the people-to-people exchange between the two countries further developed, with fruitful results.

Promoting economic diplomacy

In the economic sector, I set my goal to promote the bilateral trade relations and investments. I had promoted meetings with most Filipino Departments and Ministries to motivate and guarantee Vietnam’s position as the largest rice exporter to the Philippines, in the context of the increasingly fierce competition between rice exporters in the Philippines.

With the efforts of the Embassy and favorable conditions, total bilateral trade turnover has significantly increased from 2 billion USD (2014) to 4 billion USD in the continuing years. In addition, me and the Embassy’s staff continued to contribute to the increasing presence and investments of Vietnamese businesses in the Philippines and vice versa. Furthermore, we also put emphasis on promoting bilateral defense cooperation, specifically on the sea, along with people-to-people exchange, cultural diplomacy, education cooperation…

An unforgettable memory during my time as the Vietnamese Ambassador in the Philippines was the rescuing operation during the Haiyan tropical storm in 2013. The Filipino government highly appreciated Vietnam as the first ASEAN country to provide financial supports for victims of the Haiyan storm. Moreover, Vietjet Air’s airplanes also directly participated in carrying aids and relief to assist the Filipino government.

Notably, with the efforts of the Embassy of Viet Nam in the Philippines, all Vietnamese living in affected areas were safely rescued and repatriated, an achievement respected by countries.

Given the outstanding achievements during his appointment in Philippines, Ambassador Truong Trieu Duong was honored with the Order of Sikatuna, Grand Cross-Gold Distinction, the Government of Philippines’s highest award given to diplomats that greatly contributed to the promotion of Philippines’ relations with other countries.
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