PH and Australia Convene Joint Defense Cooperation Committee

The Philippines and Australia convened for the 11th time their Joint Defense Cooperation Committee on 24-25 October 2012. Meeting in Manila three months after the Philippine Senate’s ratification of the PH-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), deepening their bilateral relations in a post-SOVFA ratification setting was the guiding premise in the discussions.

With the SOVFA, the land and maritime training activities Dawn Caracha and Lumbas respectively held between PH and Australian armed forces could now become full-blown field training exercises. Each force could likewise join the exercises conducted by its partner with other regional militaries. Explored in the meeting were Australian troops taking part in PH-US Balikatan Exercises while Philippine forces joining the Australian Kakadu and Pitch Black Exercises. Australia would continue to contribute to Philippine defense capacity building, offering a number of graduate and training courses as well as subject matter experts and mobile training teams for 2013. 

Australia also lauded the PH government’s commitment in resolving the conflict in Mindanao, noting the signing of the Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as a major breakthrough. Philippine efforts to maintain peace and stability over the West Philippine Sea was also acknowledged, with Australia emphasizing that while it does not take sides as to which owns what, it supports the resolution of the issue in accordance with the UNCLOS and along the principles embodied in the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Australia emphasized that a binding Code of Conduct among the parties involved would immensely contribute in ensuring regional stability.

Both sides apprised one another on developments within their respective defense forces. The Philippines shared its plans about its forces refocusing on defense functions as it moves away from internal security operations while Australia spoke on its efforts to develop a new Defense White Paper, emphasizing that the document provides the guideline for its force restructuring and capability upgrade. 

The Philippines and Australia expressed commitment to further enhance bilateral defense relations, with both sides looking forward to a more comprehensive, dynamic, and strengthened defense cooperation.