Phl, Australia discussing possible joint maritime patrol in SCS — Manalo

Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Photo courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Photo courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Philippines and Australia are actively discussing the possibility of conducting a joint maritime patrol in the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Monday.

Speaking before the Australian Institute of International Affairs at the University of Adelaide in Australia, Manalo said a joint maritime patrol in the South China Sea between Manila and Canberra is part of the three recent developments in the bilateral ties of the two nations.

"Our reinforced commitment as maritime democracies to uphold an UNCLOS-based maritime regime and ensure maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight," he said, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The expansion of maritime cooperation between the two countries includes policy-planning, practical engagement, capacity-building activities in the South China Sea.

The developments came on the heels of escalating tensions between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea, which is part of the South China Sea.

Manalo also cited Australia's "unequivocal support" for the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea, which invalidated China's claims in the West Philippine Sea.

On 12 July 2016, the Philippines won its arbitral case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration – a landmark decision that China continues to reject.

Manalo said the Philippines and Australia entered a "new chapter" in their bilateral relations as the two nations with the recently signed strategic partnership.

"Our friendship, forged in the crucible of war, has evolved to assume a mantle of stewardship of global peace and stability, with our defense of democracy, sovereignty, and the rule of law," he said.

"Our Strategic Partnership is but a new chapter in the ongoing story of our ties as builders and keepers of peace and prosperity of our peoples and of the region," he added.

The country's top diplomat said that defense is a "cornerstone" of the Australia-Philippines cooperation, stressing that Australia is the Philippines' second-largest partner in defense and security cooperation.

Aside from the United States, Australia also has a Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines.

"This focuses on counter-terrorism, maritime security as well as the Modernization Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Manalo said.

Earlier this year, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez said that the country is negotiating with Australia and Japan to join with the US in conducting coast guard patrols in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

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