The Philippines is an important security partner for Australia, and we continue to work closely together in support of our shared commitment to an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Today marked my first visit to the Philippines as Minister for Defence. I was pleased to be able to meet in person in Manila with my valued Philippine counterpart, Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana. In our meeting we discussed our respective COVID-19 responses and our shared commitment to regional security and stability.
Testament to our close partnership, we noted that our respective Defence organisations had found innovative ways to continue to deepen our defence cooperation during COVID-19.
This includes ongoing counter-terrorism cooperation under our Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program, which was established in December 2019. The Program builds on the support provided by Australia under Operation AUGURY-Philippines, which delivered counter-terrorism capacity training to over 10,000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines between 2017 and 2019.
We noted that we have also continued to deepen our cooperation through the conduct of COVID- safe exercises between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Australian Defence Force, as well as defence industry cooperation.
During our discussions, we affirmed our shared interest in upholding maritime security in the region, including the South China Sea, and our support for the rights of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
During my visit I was pleased to announce that Australia will provide up to $2 million in medical and personal protective equipment to support the infectious disease wards at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ five main medical centres across the country.
This will include items and equipment such as beds, mechanical ventilators, electrocardiogram machines, laboratory fridges, cardiac monitors, pulse oximeters, UV sterilizers and personal protective equipment.
This contribution builds on the $1 million support that Australia provided through our Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program for the expansion of the infectious disease ward of the Victoriano Luna Medical Center in Manila earlier this year.
All aspects of this visit are being conducted with strict adherence to safety and health measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks.
Upon return to Australia, I will follow all health requirements, including 14 days quarantine.