By Genalyn Kabiling and Roy Mabasa
The Philippines and Australia have agreed to deepen constructive bilateral engagement and boost cooperation in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
The agreement was reached during President Duterte’s closed-door meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Malacañang last Monday.
“The President and Ms. Bishop discussed ways of further expanding cooperation in areas of mutual concern, including countering terrorism and violent extremism,” Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“Both the President and FM Bishop recognized the importance of deepening bilateral engagement in a constructive manner,” he said.
He said the two leaders also agreed “to work closer together to advance shared goals for the Philippines and Australia and for the region” following discussions on regional developments.
The President’s meeting with Bishop in Malacañang was held on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial meetings in Manila this week. Bishop is among the foreign ministers who participated in the meetings that tackled regional challenges such as South China Sea dispute, the Korean peninsula unison, and terrorism threat.
“The President thanked Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for the support of the Australian nation. Ms. Bishop, in turn, promised continued cooperation and support especially for the rehabilitation of Marawi,” he said.
Yesterday, Minister Bishop announced that the Australian government will give additional assistance to ease civilian suffering caused by the siege in Marawi City and contribute to peace-building in the area.
According to Minister Bishop, in addition to the emergency food and other supplies valued at $920,000 that she announced last June 20, the Australian government is providing $20 million over four years to
support recovery and long-term peace and stability in Mindanao.
She said Australia’s support will help meet the urgent needs of these displaced people including child protection and counseling services.
Bishop likewise revealed that Australia’s assistance will also fund small-scale infrastructure projects for communities around Marawi including provision of clean drinking water and repair of local roads.
In addition, she said the Australian government will assist community peacebuilding efforts and strengthen local capacity to resist and counter extremism.
“Australia remains committed to supporting the peace process and development in Muslim Mindanao, which are critical for a strong, stable Philippines, and our assistance will complement the existing programs and priorities of the Philippine government,” Minister Bishop said. “The Australian government continues to work with the Philippine Government to combat terrorism in the region.”
It was the President’s second meeting with Bishop this year. Duterte had a warm and cordial meeting with the Australian foreign minister last March, reaffirming the long-standing ties between the two strategic partners.
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