PH, Australia expanding maritime cooperation
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and Australia are set to expand cooperation in the maritime domain amid growing challenges in the West Philippine Sea.
Australian ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson AO said he recently flew to Palawan, the province closest to the West Philippine Sea, to meet with regional military and coast guard officials to hear about the challenges they face and how Australia can support them.
“One way in which we can do that is by expanding our engagement on maritime cooperation through a new Philippine civil-maritime security program, which aims to support the Philippines to strengthen its civil-maritime security,” he told journalists Wednesday (Oct. 6) at his Makati City residence.
Robinson said the new cooperation was also discussed during his visit to the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters last week.
“We’re keen to commence this as quickly as we can because we think there is significant utility in this for the Philippines, and particularly on the civil side so for the Coast Guard in particular. And also for mapping out some of the areas of key importance to you in the West Philippine Sea, and likewise,” he said.
The Australian embassy is set to discuss the said cooperation with Canberra on Thursday (Oct. 7).
“We are actively pursuing this to help the Philippines…because this program exists in Australia. There’s funds allocated to it, it’s finding the way in which we cooperate with the Philippines that makes the Philippines need in the civil maritime space and civil marine space,” Robinson said.
The cooperation would focus on maritime governance systems, interagency coordination, natural resources management and environment protection, technical assistance, research, and partnerships.
Robinson said Australia supports international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines has stepped up patrols in the West Philippine Sea after more than 200 Chinese militia vessels had been spotted at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef early this year.
Despite repeated protests, Chinese vessels continued to encroach in the West Philippine Sea as Beijing aggressively enforces its fictitious nine-dash line in the South China Sea.
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