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PH military looks forward to more engagements with Australia

/ 05:01 PM October 01, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it was looking forward to more engagements with its Australian counterpart, following its recent participation in Canberra-led maritime exercises.

AFP chief Gen. Jose Faustino Jr. met with Australian ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson AO at AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday (Sept. 30), a day after the conclusion of the Philippine leg of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 (IPE21).

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The IPE21 is an annual Australian Defense Force military exercise with partners across the region and Southeast Asia.

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Three Australian Navy ships—HMAS Canberra III, Anzac and Sirus—stopped over in Manila from Sept. 26 to 29, to hold various cooperation activities with its Philippine Navy counterparts.

“The conduct of trainings provides great opportunity for our personnel to advance their skills and knowledge with the Australian forces. I look forward to more engagements and robust bilateral relationship between our countries’ respective military organizations,” Faustino said.

Robinson’s visit to Camp Aguinaldo came just a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed concern over the new defense partnership between Australia, United Kingdom and United States (AUKUS), which he said could trigger a “nuclear arms race.”

The new security pact, which centered on the Indo-Pacific, was seen as an effort to counter China’s influence in the region. It would also allow Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines from shared technology provided by the US.

Duterte’s concerns echoed those of Malaysia and Indonesia. It differed with the official statement of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which welcomed the AUKUS partnership, saying it was hoping it can maintain the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who also backed the AUKUS, said he was likewise initially concerned about the possibility of a nuclear arms race.

“What concerns me in Southeast Asia is the introduction of nuclear-powered submarines here that may tilt the balance of power and trigger an arms race,” he said at a Senate budget hearing on Friday (Oct. 1).

“But I was assured by their minister of defense in Australia that these are just nuclear-powered submarines…but it will not carry nuclear missiles, or whatever,” he added.

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TAGS: Armed Forces of the Philippines, AUKUS, Australia, Indo Pacific Endeavour 2021
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