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Philippines, Australia affirm defense cooperation
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar was guest of honor at the welcome ceremony, joining Navy chief Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Offshore Combat Force Commander Joe Anthony Orbe, Littoral Combat Force Commander Roy Vincent Trinidad, and other Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) senior officials in witnessing the event.
Joey Viduya

Philippines, Australia affirm defense cooperation

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine and Australia have reaffirmed their commitment to continue defense cooperation between them, believing that territorial issues and concerns in the Indo-Pacific region including the West Philippine Sea must not be about power and competition.

 Defense Assistant Secretary for strategic assessments and international affairs Teodoro Cirilo Torralba III and Australia’s First Assistant Secretary for international policy Hugh Jeffrey co-chaired the 19th Philippines-Australia Joint Defense Cooperation Committee (JDCC) meeting held via video teleconference earlier this week.

Held annually as a policy dialogue platform between the defense establishments of the Philippines and Australia, the JDCC facilitated exchanges of views on the regional security situation to include the developments in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea and the threat posed by terrorism. 

The DND yesterday said both countries agreed that the Indo-Pacific region must go beyond major power competition and should be inclusive and rules-based. Both also agreed that countries such as the Philippines and Australia play a role in shaping the region.

During the JDCC, both nations reaffirmed support for multilateral platforms like the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus with the Philippine side expressing support for Australia’s co-chairmanship of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Military Medicine as well as appreciation for Australia’s continuing support for ASEAN centrality.

Highlighting the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Australia diplomatic ties, the DND said the JDCC commended the robust cooperation between the two countries despite the pandemic as seen in the high-level engagements in 2020, including the visit of Minister Linda Reynolds in October 2020. 

The Philippine and Australia also agreed to further discuss cooperation activities in the upcoming Defense Cooperation Working Group. 

Notwithstanding the activities that had to be postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, the DND said both countries agreed to resume activities when conditions allow and to hold virtual activities in the meantime.

Antonio Luna docks at South Harbor

Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy officially welcomed yesterday its second missile-capable frigate, the BRP Antonio Luna (FF151) which finally docked at Pier 15 of Manila’s South Harbor after arriving in the country last Feb. 9.

The brand new warship, sister ship of the BRP Jose Rizal (FF150) which was commissioned in July last year, will boost the capabilities of the military in guarding the country’s maritime territory.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar was guest of honor at the welcome ceremony, joining Navy chief Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Offshore Combat Force Commander Joe Anthony Orbe, Littoral Combat Force Commander Roy Vincent Trinidad, and other Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) senior officials in witnessing the event.

Fleet Commander Rear Adm. Loumer Bernabe, in his welcome remarks read by Commodore Trinidad, congratulated the “officers and men and women of FF151,” adding that “we are still far from being the best… But I do believe that we are on track towards a better and more capable Philippine Navy.”

Villar praised the new frigate as “the most modern surface combatant of the Philippine Navy... it is world-class and capable of competing with other world-class ships in armed forces around the world.”

Both brand new warships boast of advanced anti-surface, anti-air, anti-submarine and even electronic warfare capabilities.

The BRP Antonio Luna and its crew had to undergo a 14-day quarantine in Subic, Zambales where it docked after sailing from South Korea.

The BRP Jose Rizal welcomed the warship in the vicinity of Capones Island in a customary meeting procedure and passing exercise followed by both ships’ first maneuvering exercises.

The Antonio Luna entered Philippine waters last Feb. 7 in the vicinity of Mavulis Island, Itbayat, Batanes, after its successful maiden voyage from Ulsan, South Korea. 

The DND and the Philippine Navy joint inspection team earlier approved the acceptance and delivery of the warship to the Philippines.

Naval Public Affairs Office chief Commander Benjo Negranza said the Antonio Luna will complete the Navy’s P16-billion Frigate Acquisition Project that fulfills its “thrust of having modern platforms and systems that provide opportunities for its personnel to develop modern mindsets and propel the whole organization into becoming a multi-capable naval force responsive to our maritime nation’s defense and development.”

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