Australian Embassy
The Philippines

Defence

AUSTRALIA-PHILIPPINES DEFENCE COOPERATION

Historical Ties

Australian participation in the campaign for the liberation of the Philippines (1944-1945) involved over 4,000 personnel from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Australians fought and died in Allied sea, air and land operations in Leyte, Surigao Strait, and Lingayen and in other campaigns around the Philippines.

The Navy was present at the Battle of Leyte Gulf (Surigao Strait, Samar and Cape Engano), 20 to 25 October 1944. Australian Army personnel served in No.1 Wireless Unit, and some others – escaped prisoners from Sandakan in North Borneo –joined the military forces in the Philippines. The RAAF contribution came primarily from operational forces and were active in front-line operations in the Southern Philippines. Other local support came primarily from Airfield Construction Squadrons and Wireless Units.

RAN records indicate that 59 Australians were buried “at sea in position” and 17 were recorded as “missing presumed killed”. Two Army personnel (escaped prisoners from Sandakan) died in the Philippines serving with the 1st Battalion, 125th US Infantry Regiment. RAAF records indicate that 12 members were killed or missing in “the Philippines area”, but none are buried in the Philippines.

In addition, there were 1,035 Australian nationals (including 845 Army prisoners of war, mostly from Rabaul) who died when the Japanese cargo vessel Montivideo Maru sunk about 65 miles west of the northern tip of Luzon.

In April 2015, on the Centenary of ANZAC, a memorial was dedicated to the crew of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Catalina A24-64,believed to have been lost over Bataan. Read more here.

Unknown to many, Filipino merchant mariners played crucial roles in Australian military operations in both world wars.  A memorial by the government of Northern Territory honours 16 Filipino seamen who died in the Bombing of Darwin on 19th February 1942, and the other Filipino merchant marines.  Read more here.

Defence Cooperation Program

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperative Defence Activities was signed on
22 August 1995, laying the foundation for the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) to provide policy direction,  coordinate and monitor MOU activities. 

A Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) entered into force in September 2012 to provide a comprehensive legal and operational framework for Defence Cooperation. The SOVFA was instrumental in 2013 during Operation Philippine Assist, Australia’s response to Typhoon Haiyan to facilitate the rapid deployment of medical assistance, humanitarian and reconstruction support involving over 500 service personnel, numerous aircraft and the Landing Ship Heavy HMAS Tobruk.

Following the signing of the Comprehensive Partnership on 18 November 2015, new bilateral initiatives have been developed. The most significant is the commencement of Navy-to-Navy strategic level talks. The inaugural Navy-to-Navy Strategy talks in March 2017, co-chaired by the Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Navy and the Vice Commander Philippine Navy.

Over the years, a number of visiting Australian ships, aircraft and personnel, Australian Defence Industry representatives and senior officials have met their counterparts and other stakeholders throughout the Philippines and to participate in joint exercises.  Military exercises increased mutual confidence amongst regional defence forces whose troops may have to operate together in global and regional contingencies, such as peacekeeping or natural disaster relief.   

The ADF supports training and education opportunities for personnel of all ranks from the AFP and Philippines Coast Guard (PCG), and middle-to-senior ranked uniform and civilian personnel from the Department of National Defense (DND). Training opportunities take the form of formal courses and workshops conducted in Australia or ADF Mobile Training Team (MTT) delivered courses in the Philippines. 

Approximately 100 AFP, PCG, and DND personnel undertake education and training in Australia each year, while several hundred participate in training provided through MTT visits to the Philippines. MTT provide training in fields such as Command and Operations Law, Maritime Strategic Studies, Defence Intelligence Research and Analysis, and Aviation Safety. MTT flexible and can be organised quickly to satisfy a newly identified training requirement. 

Australia will continue to work closely with the Philippines as it seeks to achieve its modernisation goals, increase maritime security and domain awareness, and reduce the international terrorist threat.

For more information on the Australian Defence Force (ADF), go to: www.defence.gov.au

Humanitarian Cooperation

Australia and the Philippines have a legacy of cooperation following a humanitarian emergency. In 2013, the Australian Government provided humanitarian assistance following Typhoon Haiyan. A major component of the rapid response is the deployment of military assets:

  • An amphibious landing ship, HMAS Tobruk, carrying several amphibious watercraft and helicopter which delivered 110 tonnes of relief supplies to outlying islands;
  • Two C17 and three C130 aircrafts reinforced the aviation hub in Mactan Cebu with 90 personnel deployed which conducted 250 air operations, and transported million pounds of cargo and over 5,000 displaced people and humanitarian workers;
  • Over 550 Australian Defence personnel deployed across Ormoc, Mactan, Tacloban and Manila under Operation Philippines Assist, which undertook debris clearing and repair of 175 classrooms allowing 15,500 children to return to school.

In July 2015, the Australian Government provided the Philippine Navy two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) that were put to immediate use in the wake of Typhoon Koppu. The Philippine Government acquired a further three LCH for the Philippine Navy in March 2016. 

 

In the News

Philippine President Visits Australia’s Largest Navy Ship

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte visited the HMAS Adelaide, the largest ship ever built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).   Welcoming the President on arrival were Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely, Australian Chief of Defence Mark Binskin and  Commander Joint Task Group, Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2017, Captain Jonathan Earley (RAN).  Read more here.