Amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, President Benigno Aquino III and Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce discussed strengthening cooperation in maritime security during bilateral talks in Malacañang yesterday.
Bryce, who is on a two-day state visit to the country, paid a courtesy call to Aquino yesterday morning after a wreathlaying ceremony at the Rizal monument in Manila.
According to a Philippine Star report, the governor-general said that her meeting with the president covered a number of issues including maritime security and trade support.
“We talked about the productive cooperation we enjoy on defense and security matters and we also discussed bilateral trade and investment ties which, both countries agree, have potential to expand,” she said.
“We noted the fact that Australia and the Philippines share many common interests in the region including to ensure maritime security in accordance with international law and to strengthen economic integration,” she was quoted saying in a Manila Bulletin article.
The two leaders also discussed the Philippine’s status in working towards the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), resulting in commitments from the governor-general to continue supporting the projects of the Philippine government.
“We have aligned our aid program so that it tracks closely with the President’s own priorities — with our efforts focused on infrastructure, economic governance and poverty reduction,” Bryce said in a Business World article.
She added Australia stands ready to be “good and helpful neighbors” should there be occurrences of natural disasters in the region.
“As a nation that understands the heartbreak and havoc of catastrophic natural disasters whether it be cyclones, floods, or fires, Australia is committed to continue its work with our Philippine partners to prepare and build resilient communities against disasters which strike across the archipelago.”
Aquino said that the two countries have enjoyed a dynamic and fruitful partnership.
“It is one of the oldest, strongest, and most enduring partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region rooted upon a firm foundation of trust, positive engagement, and shared values and ideals,” he was quoted saying in a GMA News report. “We remain committed to this partnership and to further harnessing its strength toward the achievement of the goals that our peoples share with the rest of the community of nations,” he added.
The state visit marks the 66th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Australia and the Philippines. The bilateral talks came in time with the ongoing naval standoff between the Philippines and China in the Scarborough shoal at the West Philippine Sea.
A lone Coast Guard search and rescue boat is left at the disputed waters where two Chinese vessels still block Philippine law enforcement officials from arresting Chinese fishermen accused of poaching giant clams and other marine animals in Philippine waters.