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Australian PM to visit AFP headquarters

MANILA, Philippines — Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, one of the world leaders attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit next week, will be making a side trip to the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Camp Aguinaldo, officials said yesterday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and top military officials will be joining the Australian leader in his visit to the AFP headquarters on Monday.

Turnbull will visit the Australian Defense Force contingent training their Filipino counterparts in counterterrorism and urban warfare techniques.

Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely along with key embassy staff was at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday to coordinate the visit of Turnbull on Monday.

Around 20 Australian journalists are expected to cover Turnbull’s visit, as he will also be facing the local media following the holding of the joint urban warfare exercises at the AFP parade ground.

Australia has sent 90 ADF personnel in the country to train Filipino soldiers in urban warfare and counterterrorism skills.

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Australia has since September been helping the AFP battle the Islamic State-linked Maute group in Marawi City by deploying two AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance while helping in information-gathering and analysis.

Lorenzana said the urban warfare training provided by Australia to local troops would form part of an overall program of the AFP in building up its own capacity and capability in fighting enemies of the state in an urban setting.

The Philippines and Australia signed a Defense Cooperation Program (DCP) that provides the mechanisms for military support, intelligence sharing and people-to-people exchanges.

Defense assistance

In Zamboanga City, Australian Ambassador Gorely announced increased defense assistance to the Philippines to help address persistent terror threats and other security challenges in the region.

Gorely made the announcement as she welcomed the arrival here of two Australian warships to participate in joint maritime exercise with the Philippine military.

“The additional defense cooperation has been developed in conjunction with the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to address the challenges posed by terrorism in the region,” Gorely said.

Gorely said the enhanced cooperation would include Australian Army training for the Philippines Army (PA) and Philippines Marines in local military bases.

Canberra provided assistance to the Philippine military during the five-month siege of Marawi City by Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants linked to the Middle East-based Islamic State.

“I’m proud that with our AP3C Orion aircraft, Australia was able to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its victory over the terrorist groups that besieged Marawi City,” Gorely said.

She also revealed enhanced cooperation in intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance in Mindanao.

Australia’s HMAS Larrakia and HMAS Maitland arrived yesterday morning from Papua New Guinea to take part in joint exercise with the Philippine military.

The Larrakia and Maitland, skippered by Commander Mitchell Edwards and Lieutenant Jonathon Little respectively, were Armidale Class patrol boats capable of performing various missions and tasks.

Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) commander Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Australian Defense Attache Capt. Bradly Ian White, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, and local council members welcomed the two warships upon their arrival. The two warships have 21 crewmembers each. – With Roel Pareño

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