Presidential Communications Office Photo
VISITING Australian Foreign Minister and Sen. Penny Wong said her country is committed to continuing its presence in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Wong stressed the commitment on Thursday in a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
Asked if Australia will conduct joint maritime patrols with the Philippines and the United States, Wong replied: “We are open to cooperating with all our partners to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight. And the Philippines is a long-standing important security partner for us.”
She said the defense departments of Australia and the Philippines “are discussing the best pathway to take this forward, and we want to keep working with the Philippines on that.”
“We all want peace. We all want stability. We all want to prosper, and we want to work with our strategic partners, and we hope to be one soon with the Philippines,” Wong said.
In her opening remarks, Wong cited President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s statement that “in order to achieve our common goal of peace and prosperity for our peoples we need to work with like-minded partners.”
“And we see you as such. We recognize that no single country can do this alone and that stronger and better partnerships result in better outcomes for all,” she said.
“We want a region that is predictable and operates by agreed rules, standards and laws in which sovereignty is respected,” Wong said.
She also said Australia wants to work with the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
“In relation to joint military training as you know, we have a long-standing defense cooperation arrangement. The plan is already for further joint training activities,” Wong said. “And as we speak our defense forces are conducting a joint military exercise called ‘Kasangga’ (Partner) where we are learning from you and you were learning from us. So, I’m very pleased that is occurring.”
Manalo and Wong were asked for an update on the potential trilateral cooperation among the Philippines, Japan and Australia.
Manalo said, “Various trilateral modes of cooperation are certainly under consideration.”
“And we look forward to discussing with Australia and our other partner, Japan. And even with the United States on possible modes of cooperation,” he said.
“We are certainly planning to take forward these discussions in the very near future,” Manalo said.
Wong said Australia is willing to work “with the Philippines and with other parties, other nations to help shape the region.”
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