Australia PM Albanese up for Manila visit in September
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia will visit the Philippines early next month for talks with President Marcos and other officials on a wide range of issues, including regional security and economic development, Malacañang announced on Friday.
Albanese’s Sept. 7 to Sept. 8 visit, the first to the country by an Australian prime minister since 2003, is seen to boost defense and trade relations between the two allies, according to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).
“The Philippines and Australia share a rich history of friendship and collaboration, which has flourished through the decades,” the PCO said.
The visit will come on the heels of a joint military exercise that will be conducted against the backdrop of increasing tension between China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
Australia is the second country after the United States that has a visiting forces agreement with the Philippines.
One of the Royal Australian Navy’s largest warships, the helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02), will take part in the Aug. 20 to Aug. 31 exercise. It will dock in Palawan, the home base of the military’s Western Command.
During Albanese’s visit, the Philippines and Australia would be reinforcing their partnership in such areas as defense and security, trade, and maritime affairs, the PCO said.
Albanese earlier said in a statement that Manila and Canberra’s relationship “is built on close defense and security cooperation, increasing economic relations and warm personal ties, including through the vibrant Filipino-Australian community.”
The two countries had earlier discussed the possibility of conducting joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ), much of which is being claimed by China.
In February this year, Mr. Marcos told Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles during a meeting in Malacañang that his visit would be “an important part of the response” to recent aggressive acts by the Chinese Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea.
Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said in May that Mr. Marcos might visit Australia in March next year for the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-Australia Dialogue Relations.
About 2,000 troops—700 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, 1,200 from the Australian Defense Forces, and 150 US Marines—will participate in “Exercise Alon” (Wave), which is aimed at strengthening interoperability between Filipino and Australian forces.
Bilateral amphibious exercise
It will include the first bilateral amphibious exercise between the Philippines and Australia.
The drills are part of Indo-Pacific Endeavor, Australia’s flagship military engagement in the Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean regions. It aims to enhance security, stability, and stronger partnerships.
In 2022, Australia was the 14th-largest trading partner of the Philippines and its 18th export market, the Department of Trade and Industry reported. According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in 2021, the Philippines-Australia two-way trade reached $6.2 billion while their two-way investment was worth $8.9 billion.
Since 1946, the two countries have maintained a close partnership and military ties, forging the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement in 2012 following a 1995 memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Cooperative Defense Activities.
In 2003, the two countries signed an MOU to combat international terrorism.
These agreements allowed the two countries to undertake joint exercises, high-level visits, dialogues, and exchanges.
In 2019, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Program was established to set a closer and longer-term defense relationship. It focuses on military professionalism, counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and maritime security.
Australia, the United States, India, and Japan are members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, a strategic security coalition to promote a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.”
In June, the Philippines, United States, Japan, and Australia held their first quadrilateral defense ministerial meeting. They agreed to improve the Philippines’ maritime domain awareness through efforts, including Japan’s new “Official Security Assistance” cooperation framework and the Quad’s Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness.
The group also committed to strengthen efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.