The bilateral cooperation and diplomatic relationship between the Philippines and Vietnam are now much stronger in the face of Covid-19 pandemic, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said, after Hanoi reaffirmed its commitment to continuously supply the Philippines with its rice requirement.

“Our cooperation in the Southeast Asian region, especially with Vietnam, remains intact as we encourage our trading counterparts to refrain from imposing restrictive measures and ensure that existing supply contracts are honored and given priority for delivery,” secretary Dar said.

Deputy minister Le Quoc Doanh, of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Development, said that Hanoi highly values the friendly and cooperative relations with the Philippines within the ASEAN framework and bilateral cooperation on rice trade.

“The government of Vietnam always considers rice trading with the Philippines is not only of economic importance, but also of significance for our good diplomatic relations between the two nations,” Le said in a letter to Secretary Dar.

Vietnam is currently facing prolonged drought and saline intrusion, which greatly affected its rice production and food security.

At present, the government of Vietnam is reviewing its rice production and domestic supply situation to make appropriate rice export management plan.

“We will soon announce and provide information on rice export to the public, business and international partners,” Le said.

He added that the Philippines will be one of the first to be informed of the revised rice export policy.

Le also said that Hanoi is working on possible governmental agreement with Manila on rice trade.

“I would like to thank you very much for your close collaboration in promoting our bilateral ties, as well as our cooperation in agriculture within the ASEAN framework. With our joint efforts, I believe that Vietnam, the Philippines and ASEAN as a whole will overcome this uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Le told Dar.

Early this week, the DA chief said the Philippines will get commitment from Vietnam to honor previously signed import contracts, totaling 1.248 million metric tons (MMT) of rice, comprising 90 percent (%) of 1.376 MMT that has yet to be delivered. The balance of 5% each will come from Thailand and Myanmar.

To date, the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) has issued sanitary and phyto sanitary import clearances (SPSIC), covering a total of 1.857 MMT of rice. As of second week of March, only 492,204 MT has arrived, according to DA-BPI. In the recent years, the Philippines has been considered as one of the leading rice importers of Vietnam.

Secretary Dar assures the public that there is enough rice for the country. As of end of March, the Philippines has a total rice inventory good for 75 days, and by end of June 2020, inventory is projected at 67 days.

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