14th PH-Australia Defense Cooperation Working Group Meeting Conducted

The Defense Cooperation Working Group of the Philippines and Australia convened for the 14th time last 29 October. Held in Manila, the meeting reviewed the progress of bilateral defense cooperation since the group met last year, with each of the agreed upon action items being examined.

There exists a shared sense between the two sides to sustain the various exercises being conducted between the Philippines and Australia to include Dawn Caracha and Dusk Caracha (Army-to-Army counter-terrorism exercises) and Lumbas (a Navy-to-Navy maritime exercise) as well as the participation of one in exercises the other conducts with its defense partners: Balikatan for the Philippines and Kakadu and Pitch Black for Australia. The conduct of exercises, particularly those held in the Philippines, has been made possible through the PH-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA).

Australia committed to sustain the education and training opportunities it provides to the Philippines under its Defense Cooperation Program and sending of Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) to the Philippines. Other exchanges and visits are to be pursued between the two defense establishments' educational institutions. The Philippines expressed appreciation for Australia's gifting of two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) vessels to Manila, with three other similar vessels to be availed of by the Philippine Navy.

Meanwhile, both sides shared their respective thoughts on the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) which is being ironed out by their respective legal teams. The agreement would enable each country to provide logistical support to the other's defense forces. The upcoming talks between their respective navies including the Joint Defense Cooperation Committee meeting slated to be held in Australia in November was likewise discussed.

Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessment Raymund Jose Quilop led the Philippine delegation while Director Daniel Smith headed by the Australian team.