AUSTRALIA AND PHILIPPINES STRENGTHEN DEFENCE TIES
Australia’s already strong defence relationship with the Philippines has been further strengthened with the signing of a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) at Parliament House, Canberra, today.
The Australia Defence Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson and the Secretary of the Philippines National Defence, Mr Hermogenes E. Ebdane, Jr, signed the agreement, which Dr Nelson said was a significant step forward for both countries.
“Australia and the Philippines enjoyed a long history of defence cooperation dating back to World War II,” Dr Nelson said. “During the Philippines campaign in 1944-1945, more than 4000 Australian troops fought alongside their Philippines counterparts to liberate their nation.”
Dr Nelson said that in recent years, the Australia-Philippines Defence Cooperation Program had grown significantly, with a more-recent focus on counter-terrorism, maritime security, and assistance to the Philippines Defence Reform (PDR) program.
The Australian defence system was also providing training and workshops for the Philippines Armed Forces in the areas of civilian and military personnel management, logistics reform and capability development.
“Open and frequent strategic dialogue was a key element to further developing the bilateral Defence relationship,” Dr Nelson said.
“Ongoing cooperation is vital to addressing regional and broader security concerns, including the fight against trans-national terrorism.
“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,” he said.
Dr Nelson said that the agreement with the Philippines would provide a more comprehensive legal framework to support Australian and Philippines troops engaged in Defence Cooperation activities in both countries.
The agreement was a reciprocal document, and as such, afforded the same rights to ADF personnel in the Philippines as to Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel in Australia. It would not provide authorisation for either country to deploy troops or conduct operations in the other’s territory.
Australian Defence authorities were currently working with the Philippines to develop an army watercraft capability of up to 30 boats suitable for undertaking counter terrorism patrols in the riverine and marshland areas of Mindanao.