Australia and Philippines boost strategic cooperation

Australia and the Philippines jointly announced that both countries have entered into a strategic partnership during the inaugural meeting of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in Manila on 8 September.

Both countries reaffirmed their mutual interests in “building prosperity and preserving peace in the Indo-Pacific” and that stability in the Indo-Pacific is based on “respect for national sovereignty and shaped by long-standing agreed rules and norms, based on international law”.

“Today is a watershed moment for relations between Australia and the Philippines,” said Albanese. “Our Strategic Partnership will facilitate closer cooperation between our countries and contribute to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”

The strategic partnership signifies an upgrade to the existing Comprehensive Partnership that came into force in 2015.

According to the joint statement, the latest partnership calls for an annual defence ministers’ meeting in addition to the existing biennial foreign affairs and trade Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM) as well as other high-level engagements including the Philippines-Australia Maritime Dialogue and Philippines-Australia Strategic Dialogue and the.

Both ministers also took the opportunity to issue a bilateral declaration which stated that they would “enhance and strengthen extensive and long-standing defence and security cooperation” via practical activities such as bilateral patrols in the South China Sea and joint military drills.

As one of the Philippines’ top defence and security partners, Australia is one of only two countries with a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that enables Australian troops to participate in larger and more complex drills in the Philippines. Australia is also the second country to commit to joint patrols in the South China Sea with the Philippines after the United States.

Besides Australia and the United States, India and Japan have also emerged to be significant supporters. India is delivering its BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles to the Philippine Marine Corps, while Japan has provided the Philippine Coast Guard with newbuild patrol vessels of various sizes. Both New Delhi and Tokyo are understood to be considering enhanced defence cooperation with Manila.

by Jr Ng