PH, Australia launch Maritime Cooperative Activity

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

November 25, 2023, 10:00 am

MANILA – The Philippines and Australia have launched a Maritime Cooperative Activity, as part of their strategic partnership, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. announced on Saturday.

“Today marks the launch of the inaugural Maritime Cooperative Activity between our armed forces and the defense forces of our strategic partner, Australia,” Marcos said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

This developed after the signing of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Marcos and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Sept. 8.

The President said the Maritime Cooperative Activity between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Australian Defense Force (ADF) would enhance the maritime bilateral interoperability of the two countries.

“We endeavor to enhance bilateral interoperability in maritime security and domain awareness; test doctrines, existing protocols, and enhance efficiency; and foster closer cooperation between our countries' armed forces,” he said.

“This inaugural Maritime Cooperative Activity and those that may follow are a practical manifestation of the growing and deepening strategic and defense partnership between our countries.”

Marcos added that the maritime activity highlights the two nations’ “shared commitment to supporting the rules-based international order and a more peaceful, secure, and stable Indo-Pacific region.”

Joint patrol

According to a Joint Statement issued by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, the inaugural Maritime Cooperative Activity “in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Philippines” will run from Nov. 25 to 27.

The activity will include Philippine Navy vessels BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Davao Del Sur, the Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Toowoomba, five Philippine Air Force surveillance aircraft, and a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft.

“The Maritime Cooperative Activity highlights our shared commitment to exercising freedom of navigation and overflight consistent with international law, in support of a peaceful, secure and stable Indo-Pacific,” the joint statement read.

“Australia and the Philippines both support the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and reaffirm the 2016 South China Sea Arbitral Tribunal Award as final and legally binding on both parties.”

Teodoro said the Philippines welcomed the bilateral activities.

“The Philippines and Australia are long-standing defense partners. The Philippines welcomes bilateral activities with Australia, and other like-minded partners, that promote and maintain a rules-based international order,” he said in a statement.

Marles, meanwhile, said the Philippines and Australia “are firmly committed to a peaceful, secure and prosperous region, where sovereignty and agreed rules and norms are respected.”

“The first joint patrol between the Australian Defense Force and Armed Forces of the Philippines demonstrates this important commitment,” he added.

In August, the AFP and the ADF also kicked off their first amphibious exercise in the city of Darwin, as part of the Indo-Pacific Endeavor activities for this year.

Filipino and Australian troopers also conducted special training for jungle and urban warfare at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal in May as part of the two countries’ Army-to-Army Exercise “Kasangga” 23-2. (PNA)