The Australian government said it would provide surveillance drones and other high-tech equipment to the Philippines to boost its maritime patrol capabilities. The announcement was made following the visit to Manila of Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong to meet with her Filipino counterpart Enrique A. Manalo.
The military aid package builds on the already deep and wide-ranging maritime security ties between the two allied countries, Wong said. Apart from drones, Canberra will provide technical assistance and initiate capacity-building exercises for the Philippine Coast Guard.
It also vowed to support women’s leadership in maritime security.
“We want a region that is predictable, that operates by standards and laws in which sovereignty is respected,” Wong explained. “We want to work with the Philippines to support ASEAN’s vital contribution to regional peace and security, including maritime cooperation.”
During her stay in Manila, the media asked Wong about the prospect of Australia participating in joint patrols over the South China Sea.
She responded that her country is open to joining the Philippines and its allies in exercising freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed waters. She also pointed out that Canberra remained committed to continuing its longstanding presence in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our departments are discussing the best pathway to take this forward, and we want to keep working with the Philippines on that,” Wong said. In addition to joint patrols in the South China Sea, the two countries are reportedly discussing plans for more joint military training and exercises.