VPFA: The Peoples of Vietnam and the Philippines Treasure Each Other

On the 45th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Philippines, Vietnam Times talked to Vu Xuan Truong, Deputy President of the Vietnam – Philippines Friendship Association, former Ambassador of Vietnam to the Philippines, on the friendship and cooperation between the two countries.
July 12, 2021 | 17:26
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Can you share informaton about the development of Vietnam – Philippines relations?

Vietnam and the Philippines officially established diplomatic relations on July 12, 1976, opening pathways to develop economic, political and cultural relationships. Now both countries have signed over 30 agreements and memorandums of understanding at different levels. The strategic partnership established in late 2015 created a favorable legal corridor for developing the relations between Vietnam and the Philippines in many aspects.

Before that, the Philippines only established strategic partnerships with the United States and Japan. The partnership with Vietnam has boosted both countries’ development, particularly in economy and trade. In 2015, Vietnam – the Philippines trade did not reach US$ 3 billion. Now trade turnovers has exceeded US$ 5 billion, and Vietnam has always run trade surpluses.

Regarding direct investment, the Philippines maintains investing in Vietnam with a total capital of over US$ 300 million. Recently, businesses from both countries have made big investment plans into each other’s market.

Before Covid-19, the number of Filipino workers in Vietnam increased quickly, reaching around 7,000 people at the peak. Similarly, the number of technical workers and students from Vietnam in the Philippines rocketed. Tourism also developed. However, the pandemic has affected tourism, education and work activities between the two countries.

VPFA: The Peoples of Vietnam and the Philippines Treasure Each Other
Vu Xuan Truong, vice-chairman of the Vietnam – Philippines Friendship Association, formerly the Ambassador of Vietnam to the Philippines, visiting Ilocose Sur city, the Philippines (middle, in white shirt). Photo: Vietnam Times

What do you think about the prospect of cooperation between the two countries?

The prospect for cooperation between countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines, depends on many factors, including Covid situations. As you know, Covid is very serious in the Philippines. By now, approximately 1.5 million people have been infected and over 25,000 people have died. There are about 5,000 – 6,000 new cases every day.

In Vietnam, the Covid situation is also complicated. Right now, trade and investment between the two countries goes on as normal but mutual development in tourism, education and working continues to be difficult. In the mid and long term, the prospects for cooperation between Vietnam and the Philippines will be positive and develop quickly because both countries share many immediate and long-term benefits. In 2022, the Philippines will elect a new President, Senate and House of Representatives. Regardless of the outcomes, the Philippines will continue to be a good friend and neighbor with Vietnam. The relationships between the two countries will continue to develop strongly.

You used to be the Ambassador of Vietnam to the Philippines. How do you feel about the feelings that Filipinos have given to Vietnam?

When I was appointed Ambassador of Vietnam to the Philippines, I was a bit worried because some of my friends told me the Philippines had a lot of natural disasters but lacked security and stability. After I came to the Philippines, I came to love my life here and had a fond feeling for the Filipinos. The country indeed faces a lot of natural disasters and there are security issues in some areas but in general, there is nothing to worry about. Filipinos are open and cheerful; they look at life positively. This attitude is what helps them overcome terrifying storms and floods. Filipinos also love to sing, have a great voice and adore other types of arts.

If you meet the Filipinos, whether they are high-level officials, normal employees, business owners or workers, everyone loves to sing and sings very well. The Filipinos respect and love Vietnamese. A reason is both countries used to be colonies and had fought bravely to attain independence. Vietnam and the Philippines also share cultural similarities. Both are ASEAN members, hoping to expand friendship and cooperation for their benefits and contribute to peace, stability, development and cooperation in the region and across the globe.

VPFA: The Peoples of Vietnam and the Philippines Treasure Each Other
Ambassador Vu Xuan Truong (second from left) working with the Ambassador of the Philippines in Hanoi in 2017. Photo: Vietnam Times

In addition, the economy and culture of both countries complement rather than compete. For instance, Vietnamese students can come to the Philippines to study because of its advantages in English, a good education system and low education and living costs. Vietnamese schools can hire Filipino teachers, especially English teachers, at a low cost but with high quality. Restaurants, hotels and recreational spots in Vietnam can hire bands from the Philippines because they are so passionate and talented and are not too costly to invite. Every year, Vietnam exports a large quantity of rice to the Philippines. We often joke that nothing is better than a perfect duo with one providing sources of nourishment and the other wondrous music.

In people-to-people relations, what activities have the Vietnam-Philippines Friendship Association went through and what are the results?

I think the people-to-people relations between Vietnam and the Philippines cover many areas. The Vietnam – Philippines Friendship Association (VPFA) is the catalyst to unite the Vietnamese who want to develop friendship and cooperation with the people of the Philippines.

The VPFA was established in late 2014. We have worked hard and achieved many noticeable results. The association believes communications to promote mutual understanding is the basis and prerequisite to developing the friendship and cooperation between the two peoples. As such, VPFA focuses on foreign communications. Our leaders often write articles and attend interviews on mass media, particularly during major celebrations in both countries.

The VPFA also holds workshops and talk shows with students from both countries about the situations in the Philippines and Vietnam. We have our Facebook page, which is still under development. We are working to enrich our page.

Responding to people’s wishes to build statues of national heroes, the VPFA has mobilized and worked with some organizations to install a bust of President Ho Chi Minh and National Hero Jose Rizal at Thai Nguyen University. Previously, Laguna University had built similar statues of Uncle Ho and Rizal in the main campus and four other branches.

We have done many other activities such as organizing events to celebrate diplomatic relation anniversaries and independence days of Vietnam and the Philippines. We also cooperate with the Embassy of the Philippines in Hanoi, the Embassy of Vietnam in Manila and other organizations to expand the cultural and economic relations between the two peoples.

VPFA: The Peoples of Vietnam and the Philippines Treasure Each Other
Truong at the inauguration ceremony of the busts of Vietnam's President Ho Chi Minh and the Philippines Hero Jose Rizal in Thai Nguyen University in 2019. Photo: Vietnam Times

What activities will the VPFA implement to enhance solidarity between the two peoples?

We expect to hold our congress at the end of this year to elect a new executive committee and develop action plans. We are hoping to mobilize and recruit young, well-educated and passionate people to join the committee.

For now, we are focusing on three areas. First, we aim to enhance our communications efforts to strengthen and develop the friendship, solidarity and cooperation between the peoples of Vietnam and the Philippines. Second, we want to keep partnering with individuals, organizations and agencies such as the Embassy of Philippines in Hanoi, the Embassy of Vietnam in Manila, universities such as Thai Nguyen University and ministries such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Industry and Trade to boost activities, including cooperation programs with the VPFA.

Finally, we aim to develop the association. There is still a lot to be done but whether they can be done depends on many factors, including controlling Covid successfully in both nations

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