By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

STRATEGIC PLANNING. The 6th Philippines-Australia Strategic Dialogue tackled cooperation on maritime security and combatting transnational crimes at a hotel in Manila on Friday (Nov. 25, 2022). Heading the two countries’ delegations were (from left) Defense Undersecretary for Civil, Veterans, and Reserve Affairs Franco Nemesio M. Gacal and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro for the Philippines, and Australian Foreign Affairs Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia and Global Partners Michelle Chan and Australian Defense Acting Deputy Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Industry Hugh Jeffrey. (Courtesy of DFA)

MANILA – The Philippines and Australia are looking to strengthen cooperation on maritime security and combatting transnational crimes.

Senior foreign affairs and defense officials discussed ways to boost collaboration, both bilaterally and through multilateral organizations, at the 6th Philippines-Australia Strategic Dialogue, held at a hotel in Manila on Friday.

The dialogue was last conducted in 2020 via virtual mode.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to support a rules-based regional order with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the center.

“Both sides reaffirmed the importance of maritime cooperation activities, including the conduct of maritime dialogues, joint exercises, capacity building activities, training, and logistics support, which show the common maritime perspectives underpinning the two countries’ maritime cooperative endeavors,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The officials noted President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s agreement to strengthen ties between their countries by formally elevating the bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership.

Marcos and Albanese also vowed to further boost cooperation on agriculture, energy, and climate change during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on November 19.

“The connections between Australia and the Philippines have been long-standing and have become stronger and stronger. We have a sizeable population in Australia of Filipino nationals. And many of them have already taken Australian citizenship and dual citizenship,” Marcos said during the meeting.

DFA Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations and ASEAN Affairs Ma. Theresa Lazaro and Defense Undersecretary for Civil, Veterans, and Reserve Affairs Franco Nemesio Gacal led the Philippine delegation.

The Australian side was represented by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Deputy Secretary for Southeast Asia and Global Partners Michelle Chan, and Department of Defense Acting Deputy Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Industry Hugh Jeffrey. (PNA)