Australia, Philippines team up to deter Chinese ‘coercion’ in disputed waters

Australia, Philippines team up to deter Chinese ‘coercion’ in disputed waters

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Australia is set to take its relationship with the Philippines to new heights by running joint military patrols in the contested waters of the South China Sea and making it easier for Filipinos to receive work visas as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pushes to deepen economic ties with South-East Asia.

The Philippines’ top representative in Australia said recent flare-ups showed Beijing was becoming more assertive in the region, adding it was important for democracies to send China a message that “you cannot run this world by coercion”.

Philippines Ambassador to Australia Hellen De La Vega said the nations had a responsibility to deter coercion in the South China Sea.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Albanese will depart for a three-nation diplomatic trip on Tuesday, beginning in Indonesia where he will release the government’s South-East Asia economic strategy, a long-term plan to strengthen ties across the region until 2040.

The strategy, which is said to contain over 70 recommendations, has been devised by Australia’s special envoy for South-East Asia, former Macquarie Group chief executive Nicholas Moore.

Albanese will then travel to the Philippines for a bilateral meeting with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos jnr and to India for the G20 summit.

Albanese is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the trip.

He may also meet with US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Philippines ambassador Hellen De La Vega said she was hopeful the leaders would formally designate the bilateral relationship a “strategic partnership” during Albanese’s trip to Manila, signalling a determination to boost a relationship that is widely seen as falling short of its potential.

De La Vega said she expected Albanese would announce that Filipinos aged between 18 and 30 will be able to receive working holiday visas in Australia, granting them the same rights as citizens from other South-East Asian nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“We welcome it in my country in the sense that it would help people-to-people links, and I think it’s important for Australia to get to know the Philippines better and the Philippines to get to know Australia better,” De La Vega said.

She said the defence establishments in both nations had discussed organising regular joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea to deter China from seeking to control the disputed waters.

“It’s really very important that we are vigilant,” she said, adding: “We should remind countries that there’s no place for coercive behaviour in the region.”

A Chinese Coast Guard ship aims a water cannon at a Philippine military resupply boat near Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands on August 5.Credit: Philippine Coast Guard

Chinese coastguards last month used a water cannon on a Philippine boat, fuelling fears that a minor maritime dispute could spiral into a serious conflict.

The Australian and Philippines defence forces last month conducted their first large-scale joint military exercises, simulating the retaking of an enemy-controlled island through air, sea and land drills.

De La Vega said the exercises were a “positive signal” of the nations’ determination to protect the rules-based order in the South China Sea.

She said Australia and the Philippines make natural security partners given both nations are democracies, island nations and US treaty allies.

Defence Minister Richard Marles said during a visit to the Philippines last month that most of Australia’s imports and exports pass through the South China Sea, making it a vital national security interest.

De La Vega said China had behaved provocatively by releasing a new national map claiming territory in the South China Sea that an international tribunal found in a 2016 ruling belonged to the Philippines.

The Philippines Foreign Affairs Department said the map was the “latest attempt to legitimise China’s purported sovereignty and jurisdiction over Philippine features and maritime zones” and said the claim “has no basis under international law”.

Despite the fact the Philippines has a population of 114 million and makes up Australia’s fifth-largest immigrant community, trade between the nations is only a fraction of that between Australia, Thailand and Vietnam.

De La Vega said there was a “tremendous opportunity” for Australia and the Philippines to co-operate on critical minerals and renewable energy.

She said the fact Australia was beginning to import Filipino mangoes, known as Carabao mangoes, for times when Australian mangoes are out of season showed the untapped potential for more two-way trade.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

Most Viewed in Politics

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article