Australia to Equip Philippine Coast Guard to Improve Maritime Security
Australia announced it will provide a broad range of support and economic assistance to the Philippines while reaffirming its strong support for the 2016 ruling that affirmed the Philippines' sovereignty over the eastern parts of the South China Sea. Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, wrapped up a three-day visit to the country including touring the Philippine Coast Guard facilities and announcing a package of maritime cooperation initiatives that will supply equipment to the Coast Guard.
Wrapping up the visit they issued a joint statement that recognized the two countries' long-standing partnership on issues including ongoing cooperation in the areas of defense, maritime, counter-terrorism, peace-building, and disaster recovery. It was seen as a strong sign of support for the Philippines as it continues to address incursions by Chinese vessels both from the military and commercial fishing as part of China’s claims to rights over the South China Sea.
Australia’s minister visited the headquarters of the Philippine Coast Guard. Reports indicate that the Filipino commanders briefed Wong on their recent experiences patrolling the South China Sea. Saying that Australia wants a region that is stable and predictable, Minister Wong announced a package of maritime cooperation initiatives. It comes as part of commitments for nearly US$60 million in development aid Australia plans to provide in 2023-2024.
Australia will provide technical assistance and capacity building for the Philippine Coast Guard. Among the specific equipment will be drones and other technologies as well as training to help the Coast Guard and the Philippines increase its borer protection capabilities. Australia also plans to provide information that will help the Philippines to address illegal fishing in its territorial waters.
The minister said Australia wanted to help the Philippines to improve its maritime domain awareness and marine protection. Meeting with the Philippines Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo, Wong also stressed the importance of a region where sovereignty is respected. The secretary and minister reiterated the importance of all states adhering to international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Philippines, failed to get an agreement to conduct joint Coast Guard or Navy patrols, something the government has been anxious to develop as a further demonstration of support. Australia however said that talks would continue to explore patrols while the Philippines is also seeking agreements with the United States and Japan for joint patrols.
The support comes as the United States also plans to continue to transfer vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard. Two weeks ago, the U.S. declared its intent to send four vessels, two Island- and two Protector-class patrol boats, from the U.S. Coast Guard to the Philippines, after handing over two other vessels in March. Last year the U.S. also provided tools and tactical equipment and it helped fund the construction of a new training facility located near Manila.