The Philippines and Australia signed on Wednesday a Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership at the sidelines of the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit at Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza.
President Benigno S. Aquino III said that since 1946, both countries “have cooperated in all aspects of our relations, including that of humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”
“It is this long legacy of cooperation that we pay tribute to today, in signing the Joint Declaration on Philippines-Australia Comprehensive Partnership. The Declaration acknowledges the increasing breadth and depth of our relations, which sets the tone, pace, and direction of our relationship in the years ahead,” he noted.
“Even before the establishment of formal relations in 1946, we were already working together. During World War II, after Bataan and Corregidor fell to the Axis Forces, Australia gave refuge to our government. Later, Australians and other allies would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Filipinos in the liberation of our country,” he noted.
Pres. Aquino said he had extensive discussions with Turnbull on how to further improve bilateral relations, and strengthen cooperation and engagement on regional and international issues.
“We reaffirmed the importance of engagement and cooperation in the political, defense and security, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism fields, among others. We also exchanged views on regional security challenges, including maritime security, and, with this, committed to continue our bilateral consultations on how to address them,” he said.
The President said both countries have committed to continue working closely towards “more substantive and meaningful activities” between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Australian Defense Force to build trust and confidence and enhance interoperability.
“In particular, I thank Prime Minister Turnbull for Australia’s continuous support to the modernization of the Philippines, including the recent donation of two landing craft heavy vessels to the Philippine Navy. These are significant assets not only to our defense, but also and more importantly, to our disaster response capabilities. One of these vessels, in fact, was used in our Navy’s relief operations in the wake of Typhoon ‘Koppu’ (local name: Lando),” he said.
In disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), Pres. Aquino said Australia has “never failed to extend a helping hand to the Filipino people.”
“Now, we are working with one another to enhance the Philippines’ DRRM capacities through the Resilience and Preparedness towards Inclusive Development (RAPID) Programme,” he said.
“Australia’s partnership has been invaluable in other areas, as the Philippines works to meet our development goals: from those in education, to infrastructure development, to the realization of peace, stability, and progress in Mindanao,” he stressed.
Pres. Aquino also noted the significant role that Australia played in programs and projects such as the School Building Program for Basic Education, Provincial Road Management Facility, and the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Program, among others.
“As our bilateral relations have strengthened throughout the years, Prime Minister Turnbull and I also noted the increase in bilateral trade between our economies. In particular, I thanked him for the support that Australia has given our public-private partnership (PPP) programs. A stronger policy, legal, institutional, and regulatory environment for PPPs (public-private partnerships) has been created, through their help, and we look forward to continued cooperation with Australia in this area,” he said.
Pres. Aquino also welcomed the finalization of the Philippines-Australia Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).
“This will allow us to share knowledge, information, and best practices with each other, particularly in areas of mutual interest, and collaborate on significant projects that will enable both the Australian and the Filipino peoples to take hold of their own destinies,” he said.
“The Philippines and Australia have been partners in peace, stability, and progress for almost seventy years now. We look forward to further deepening our engagement in all areas through a strong comprehensive partnership founded on the desire to uplift and empower our peoples, our region, and the wider community of nations,” Pres. Aquino said. (PNA / Lilybeth G. Ison)