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PH-Vietnam Defense Cooperation Working Group Convenes in Manila

Meeting for the third time, the Defense Cooperation Working Group of the Philippines and Vietnam agreed to sustain various platforms for cooperation to include the working group meeting itself, the vice-ministerial strategic dialogue, navy-to-navy talks, high level exchanges, education and training opportunities and the personnel interaction program in the islands of the West Philippine Sea and East Sea occupied by the Philippines and Vietnam respectively. 
The meeting also discussed ways forward on some of the ideas put forth in the previous DCWG, ideas which have now gained ground to include joint patrols, conduct of exercises focusing on HA/DR and Search and Rescue as well as inclusion and recognition of the importance of freedom of overflight when talking about freedom of navigation.

Interestingly, the meeting recalibrated some ideas previously brought to the table to include the possibility of a Two plus Two ministerial meeting. Noting the differences in governmental structures, a Two Plus Two meeting at the level of the ministers may not be pragmatic at this point. Instead, such meeting at the working level may more feasible. Relatedly, in due regard to the differences of the structure of the two armed forces, with Vietnamese Army being actually Vietnam’s armed forces hence the absence of an equivalent of the Philippine Army in the strictest sense, the idea of bringing the army-to-army working group within the ambit of the defense working group was suggested.

Some of the current modalities for cooperation are to be enhanced. The Senior Officers Exchange Program shall be complemented with a Junior Officers Exchange Program. Intelligence exchanges will no longer be conducted at the intelligence chiefs level but also at the operational level for a more timely exchange of intelligence information. The analyst-to analyst exchange which has commenced this year shall be sustained nonetheless. On the area of peacekeeping operations, subject matter expert exchanges shall now be undertaken in addition to having Vietnamese officers sent to train at the Philippine Peacekeeping Operations Center.

New areas of cooperation have likewise been explored to include the areas of logistics and military medicine. Meanwhile, the Philippines, taking note of the slow progress in regard to the crafting of an ASEAN-China Code of Conduct in the South China, proposed to have a bilateral Code of Conduct between the Philippines and Vietnam. The Vietnamese side positively considered such a proposal.

Co-chairing the meeting were Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop and Lt. General Vu Cheng Tan of the VPA, who both acknowledged that the 2010 MOU on Defense Cooperation is a reinforcing factor in the two countries thrust in promoting bilateral defense relations.
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