The naval forces of Vietnam and the Philippines that are respectively stationed on Song Tu Tay (Southwest Cay) and Song Tu Dong (Northeast Cay) Islands, parts of the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago, joined in their first-ever naval personnel interaction on Sunday.
The event was hosted by the Vietnamese side on Song Tu Tay Island, part of Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea. Forty naval staff members from each country took part in the event, with Colonel Le Xuan Thuy, Vice Commander of Vietnamese Naval Zone 4, leading the Vietnamese side, while Colonel Carlito M. Barizo, Deputy Commander of the Naval Forces West under the Philippine Navy, headed the visiting Filipino delegation. The one-day exchange was held in response to China illegally placing oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 in Vietnamese waters on May1 despite strong protests from Vietnam, which has repeatedly demanded that Beijing remove its rig from the area immediately. In his address to open the exchange, Colonel Thuy said, “This is a very significant event that manifests the solidarity, goodwill and responsibilities of the two countries in general and the two naval forces in particular in the strict implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Vietnam Sea, amidst complicated developments in the sea area caused by China’s perverse acts that have seriously violated international law.” During the exchange, the Vietnamese and Philippine naval officers shared information of mutual interest, played football (soccer), volleyball and tug of war, and partook in music shows. Naval staff members of both sides posed for photographs taken in many areas on the islands, including in front of the sovereignty stele on Song Tu Tay Island.
Commenting on the event, Colonel Barizo said he and his delegation were very happy to join the exchange. He also greatly appreciated Vietnam’s preparations for the event. He added that the Philippine side will try its best to ensure a similar event will be hosted by the Philippines next year. Also yesterday, the Filipino delegation paid a visit to the statute of Vietnam’s national hero Tran Quoc Tuan, the lighthouse, the meteorological station, and Song Tu Tay pagoda. The two sides expect that such exchanges will contribute to strengthening the friendly and close relationship and mutual understanding between the two forces on the two islands. A friendly relationship is essential for both sides to work well together in responding to disasters, participating in search and rescue activities, and sharing warnings of bad weather. The two sides will also coordinate in ensuring maritime safety and security, keeping order and security in the waters of the two islands, thus contributing to maintaining peace, stability and security in the East Vietnam Sea. Vietnam and the Philippines have agreed to maintain exchanges that will be annually conducted on their respective islands.