Australia is open to providing drones, skills training, and other technology to improve the Philippines’ maritime domain awareness activities in its waters, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Thursday. Wong made the statement as she announced a package of maritime cooperation initiatives between the two states during her bilateral meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo in Makati City. ‘We discussed today ways in which we will enhance our cooperation (and) this includes Australia providing drone equipment, training and other technology to strengthen your Coast Guard in maritime domain awareness and protection capabilities,’ she said in a press conference. Wong said Canberra regards Manila as a long-standing ‘important security partner’ in the region and is committed to elevating its bilateral relationship to ‘strategic partnership’. Apart from technical assistance, Australia also opened its doors to possible trilateral partnerships with the Philippines and other like-minded nations for joint patrols against the backdrop of changing security environment in the South China Sea. Wong said both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Australian Foreign Ministry are discussing the ‘best pathway to take this forward’. ‘We are committed to continuing Australia’s long-standing presence in the region including in the West Philippine Sea, the South China Sea (and) we are open to cooperating with all our partners to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight,’ she said. Manalo confirmed that ‘various trilateral modes of cooperation’ are under Manila’s consideration. ‘We look forward to discussing with Australia and our other partner Japan, and even with perhaps the United States on possible modes of cooperation. We are certainly planning to take forward these discussions in the very near future,’ he said. In a separate statement, the DFA said both officials agreed on the importance of securing a region that is open, stable and prosperous, where sovereignty is respected and where states operate in accordance with agreed rules and norms. The two welcomed the Quad’s commitment to support a peaceful and stable, rules-based region with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at the center. Quad or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is a strategic security dialogue among the governments of Australia, India, Japan and the US. Both officials also look forward to continued transparent discussion on AUKUS (Australia, UK, US), particularly on its objective to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Source: Philippines News Agency