(File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has emphasized the need for the Philippines and Vietnam to reach an agreement to avoid potential maritime disputes.

Marcos discussed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh his intent to hold a dialogue with Hanoi to avoid a repeat of sightings of Vietnamese vessels in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This was after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spotted Vietnamese vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in March.

"Nag-usap kami ng Prime Minister (The Prime Minister and I talked). We have to find a way. Sabi ko huwag ‘yung ganito na nag-a-ano tayo, mag-usap tayo nang mabuti (I told him we have to have a thorough discussion on the issue)," Marcos said in a media interview on Thursday while on board PR001.

"And that’s why I have asked our foreign ministers, ating Foreign Secretary and then the Foreign Minister of Vietnam to begin, develop the talks so that we can have an agreement na hindi na siguro magkaproblema ng mga ganyang klase (to avoid any problem)."

In a report last month, the PCG said it spotted at least 20 Chinese and Vietnamese vessels near the Sabina Shoal during its maritime patrol from March 16 to 21.

Getting no response despite multiple radio challenges, the PCG deployed its personnel through rigid-hull inflatable boats in and around the shoal to disperse the foreign-flagged vessels.

Marcos said the talks between the Philippines and Vietnam should start as early as possible.

"Dahil hindi naman (Because it's not) contentious, it’s something that we never had to worry about before, ngayon lang (just now)," he said. "Kaya’t kailangan habang maaga eh pag-usapan na natin at makahanap na tayo ng sarili nating usapan. Mainam nga na hindi magkagulo, hindi magka-incident ng mga nangyayari sa atin ngayon (That's why we need to talk as early as now and find a way to avoid tension and a repeat of incidents like that)."

On May 1, Marcos directed the Department of Foreign Affairs and the PCG to map out the Philippines' fishing ground in the WPS.

His order came after the near-crash incident off Spratly Island between a Chinese coast guard ship and a Philippine patrol vessel.

During his intervention at the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit Retreat Session in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia on Thursday, Marcos urged all parties to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to prevent the South China Sea (SCS) from becoming the focal point of armed conflict.

The President also ensured that the Philippines is committed to the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China, as well as the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

ASEAN and China signed the DOC on Nov. 4, 2002 to exercise self-restraint and promote non-militarization within the busy waterway. (PNA)