Australian Embassy
The Philippines

Mateship and Bayanihan Exhibition Opening Remarks by Ambassador Steven Robinson AO

Mateship and Bayanihan:  The Story of Philippines-Australia Defence Ties Exhibition Opening Night
Remarks by Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO
17 October 2019, QCX Museum, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City



·       Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana of the Department of National Defence

·       Acting Executive Director Carminda Arevalo of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines

·       Colonel Yu Nakano, Defence Attaché of the Embassy of Japan

·       Mr David Singleton, Chief Executive Officer of Austal Ltd

·       Mr Joseph Francia, First Vice President, GMA International

·       Mr James Manzanero, Vice President of Eagle Broadcasting Corporation

·       Our friends from the media

·       Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.


Seventy-five years ago today, the first of the Australian naval forces taking part in what was Operation KING II crossed Philippine waters heading to the Leyte Gulf and the Surigao Strait.  In the battles that followed, over 4,000 Australian Service Personnel were among the Allied Forces who played a small but significant part in the Allied victory here and across the Pacific.

Later, we will be joined by Rear Admiral Guy Griffiths and Mr David Mattiske, veterans of Operation KING II who served on HMAS Shropshire. It is truly an honour to have them this evening, and 75 years after their brave endeavours we extend our heartfelt gratitude to them for their service.

The great battle in the pacific taught us what holds true til today -  that the success of coalitions and alliances rests heavily on a spirit of cooperation and on common values.

In a few days, on 23 October we will mark the second anniversary of the end of the Battle of Marawi.  This recent threat showed us once again that the spirit of cooperation between our countries that was forged in WWII is still present today. These ties are at the heart of the very close relationship Australia shares with The Armed Forces of the Philippines.

As I understand it, the Filipino ideal of bayanihan conveys the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a goal. Bayahihan is akin to the Australian concept of ‘mateship’, which includes notions of friendship, solidarity and pulling together. These values have shaped who we are and what we stand for. And they have been tested under the most grueling periods of history.

This exhibition is about what binds us together - mateship and bayanihan. That spirit lies at the heart of the relationship between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Australia has been there with our Filipino friends, shoulder to shoulder - deep in the heat of battle, supporting other countries in the region to keep the peace, and rebuilding after natural disasters.   

For example, back in 1999 to 2000, the AFP deployed three contingents of the Philippine Humanitarian Support Mission to East Timor in support of the International Force East Timor, an Australian-led multinational peacekeeping task force under the United Nations. It restored peace and security and facilitated humanitarian assistance in the territory. 

When Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in November of 2013, it decimated properties and livelihoods of so many Filipinos. I am proud to say that Australia was quick to respond with emergency assistance, including medical and logistics support and Defence personnel on the ground to help our friends rebuild. Over 500 soldiers, air men and women, like their forefathers, answered the call to work alongside their Filipino friends in Tacloban City and other parts of the country.

In May 2017, when the Maute group of radical Islamists terrorised Marawi City in Southern Mindanao, the ADF formed Operation AUGURY-PHILIPPINES in partnership with the AFP. The ADF deployed P3 Orion aircraft for intelligence surveillance reconnaissance in support of the AFP’s ground forces and operations in Marawi.

Some two years after the Marawi Siege, the ADF still works with the AFP on urban operations and counter-terrorism focused military training. This helps deal with common threats that we face today and enhances the shared understanding of terrorist threats in the region.   Because Australia knows we are stronger when we work with trusted friends.

And while the nature of the challenges we face in the years to come will always continue to change, the necessity of cooperating closely in our response never will.

Looking ahead, I am confident that Australia’s relationship with the Philippines will remain grounded in the values embodied by mateship and bayanihan – friendship, solidarity and cooperation. 

Thank you everyone for joining us tonight.