Metro Manila, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the planned Philippine-Vietnam maritime pact will be “a very big step” for the two countries amid woes in the South China Sea.

In a statement, Malacañang said outgoing Vietnam Ambassador to the Philippines Hoang Huy Chung paid a farewell call on Marcos on Thursday, during which they discussed the signing of the maritime agreement.

“Now that we are going to start discussions on the agreement that we have between the Philippines and Vietnam, I think it is a very, very important – it will be a very, very important part of our relationship and it will bring an element of stability to the problems that we are seeing now in the South China Sea,” the president said.

The realization of the deal, Marcos stressed, “is going to be a very big step” between the two nations.

In May, Marcos expressed hope that the discussion on this possible agreement with Vietnam would soon take off to avoid any conflict in the contested waterways.

Chung, meanwhile, told Marcos that Vietnam has “respect for your thought that you are a friend to all, [enemy to none].”

Marcos said the two countries share a “solid agreement” that would help them face “common challenges when it comes to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.”

“I really believe that we have to make these bilateral agreements,” the president said. “I think you will not be surprised and I think I’m not giving away any confidence that we will like to have these bilateral agreements as well with the other countries within ASEAN.”