Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and President Aquino had a fruitful discussion on possible cooperation in dealing with security threats, disaster risk reduction & education.
The meeting of the two heads of countries, Australia and the Philippines happened during the 2015 Asia – Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila and was followed through by an special bilateral meeting, thereafter at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.
Details of the bilateral discussion were centered on Australia and the Philippines engagement in defense cooperation. Firstly, President Aquino expressed great appreciation for the Australia’s support to the Philippine’s Arm Forces “modernization program and humanitarian assistance and disaster risk reduction management. The donation includes two heavy landing craft according to Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, who was present during the bilateral meeting.
In return, the Australian Prime Minister acknowledged the Philippines’ acceptance of the “heavy landing crafts that were provided to the Philippines as he declared Australia’s continuing support on defense.
One major output of the meeting was the signing of the “Comprehensive Partnership” between the two countries by Aquino and Turnbull. At the same time, the cooperation expanded to the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the Technical, Educational and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Technical Vocational Education and Training by the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and the Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell.
In the area of defense, apart from the US, Australia is the only other country that the Philippines has a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). President Aquino told the Australian party that the VFA is very important to the Philippines defense and security, especially because the country does not have foreign military bases, as prohibited by the 1987 Constitution.
Global terrorism, which is considered a security threat to the Philippines is also one of Aquino’s top agenda in the meeting with Turnbull. There is a need to establish a strong alliance with other countries, including Australia to attain a level of preparedness in combating against terrorism and insurgency.
The Australian development package for the Philippine does not only deals with defense and disaster, but has been extended further to cover, public-private partnership in infrastructure development, technical-vocational education and training.