Australia and the Philippines have become strategic partners following a pivotal meeting between the countries’ leaders on Sept. 8.
“Australia and the Philippines enjoy a long-standing relationship based on close cooperation and enriched by the 400,000 Australians with Filipino heritage,” he said.
“Today is a watershed moment for relations between Australia and the Philippines. Our Strategic Partnership will facilitate closer cooperation between our countries and contribute to an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”
The strategic partnership follows the announcement in August that Australia would look to work more closely with the Philippines on defence and security-related issues.
Australia Looking To Elevate Ties
The announcement comes just weeks after Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles announced both countries would work to elevate diplomatic ties to a strategic partnership level.
“We are two countries committed to the global rules-based order. We are committed to an idea of a world in which disputes are determined by reference to international law,” the deputy prime minister said.
“Peace is maintained through the protection of deployable rules-based order and its functionality around the world, and in truth, around the world today, we see it under pressure.”
Mr. Marles said that he saw Australia’s deepening defence ties with the Philippines as a pathway to upholding the rules-based order
“What we will do is bring our military capability to enhance the rules-based order and to provide for its expression,” he said.
“And in that sense, what we are about is peace. And so I think that message is as important now as it’s ever been.”
China Tensions Create Impetus for Deepening Ties
The deepening military ties between the two nations come as the Philippines is experiencing an increasing ramp-up in tensions with Beijing over its attempt to claim Filippino territories in the South China Sea.
In August, the Philippino government condemned a Chinese coast guard ship’s “excessive and offensive” use of a water cannon to block a Filipino supply boat from delivering new troops, food, water, and fuel to the Second Thomas Shoal, a Philippine-occupied territory.
Beijing believes it has “indisputable sovereignty” over almost all of the 1.3 million square mile South China Sea, as well as most of the islands within it.
This would include the Spratly Islands, an archipelago consisting of 100 islands and reefs that sit territorially within the waters of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.
The confrontation is the latest flare-up between the two countries, which has seen the Chinese Coastguard vessel use military-grade lasers and other methods to deter Filipino naval ships from the disputed regions.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a Facebook post that the Chinese ship’s actions were “in wanton disregard of the safety of the people on board” and violated international law, including the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The “excessive and offensive actions against Philippine vessels” near the shoal prevented one of two Filipino boats from unloading supplies needed by its troops guarding the shoal, the Filipino military said in a statement reported by the Associated Press.
It called on the Chinese coast guard and Beijing’s Central Military Commission “to act with prudence and be responsible in their actions to prevent miscalculations and accidents that will endanger people’s lives.”