MANILA: President Truon Tan Sang of Vietnam on Wednesday arrived in Manila for a three-day state visit which he said will elevate relations between the two countries to new heights.
Sang and his party landed at 2pm aboard a chartered Vietnam Airlines plane at the Villamor Airbase in suburban Pasay City, Metro Manila where he was met by top Philippines officials headed by Secretary Albert del Rosario of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
From Villamor, Sang proceeded to Malacanang Palace in Manila where he was personally met by Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino followed by the traditional military honours for visiting heads of state.
The 62-year-old Sang was the first head of state to visit the Philippines under the Aquino administration.
After the honours, Aquino and Trang proceeded to the President’s Hall in Malacanang to witness the signing of at least four bilateral agreements on education and tourism as well as discuss the controversial Spratlys issue in the South China Sea (renamed West Philippine Sea by Manila).
In a press conference, the two leaders reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to a peaceful solution to the dispute in Spratlys, a group of islands confirmed by experts to be rich in natural resources such as petroleum and fisheries.
The Philippines and Vietnam belong to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and have laid claim to the Spratlys which put them into a dispute with China along with their two Asean partners, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.
Highlighting Sang’s visit on his first day was a state dinner hosted by Aquino in Malacanang.
On Thursday, Sang is to lay a wreath at the foot of the monument of the Philippines national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park after which he is to unveil a bust of Ho Chi Minh, the legendary Vietnamese leader and former president, at the Asean Park inside Manila’s historic “walled city” of Intramuros built by the Spanish colonisers four centuries ago.