By Aaron Recuenco
The Australian government has vowed to further strengthen its defense cooperation with the Philippines to address the perennial problems of terrorism in the country; the recent was several cases of suicide bombings in Sulu.
In a statement, the Department of National Defense said Australia’s defense capability support to the Philippines will continue under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Program which was discussed during the ASEAN’s Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus held in Bangkok, Thailand on November 16.
Lorezana met with Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds during the event.
“Minister Reynolds and Secretary Lorenzana agreed an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program will allow the Australian Defence Force to continue delivering the capacity-building support for counter-terrorism cooperation requested by the Philippines,” the DND statement read.
“The Program will also provide funding certainty and greater flexibility to meet the broader needs of the Australia-Philippines bilateral defense relationship,” it added.
Australia has been providing counter-terrorism capacity training to over 10,000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines after the Marawi City siege in 2017 under the Operation Augury-Philippines.
In its website, Australia’s Defense department described Operation Augury – Philippines as the Australian Defence Force’s partnership activity with the Armed Forces of the Philippines focused on sharing experiences and approaches to countering complex urban terrorist tactics.
“Australia’s participation is focused on providing insight and experiences from recent ADF operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines sharing knowledge from their recent experiences in Marawi, it said.
“The program is a collaborative exchange of tactics, techniques, and procedures. Activities occur on Philippine military bases and at sea for the maritime border protection elements,” it added.
The continuous support of Australia to the Philippine military, according to Philippine defense department, is a statement of the reinforced shared long-term commitment to countering the regional terrorist threat and building on the well-established bilateral defense relationship.
“This training cooperation has included essential land-based activities focused on urban combat and joint coordination skills; air training focused on enhancing air coordination in the urban environment; and maritime training activities,” the statement read.
Australia has been providing counter-terrorism capacity training to over 10,000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines after the Marawi City siege in 2017.
“Minister Reynolds and Secretary Lorenzana underscored that long-term engagement under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program will strengthen their shared commitment to regional security and stability,” the statement read.
The Philippines has been battling various extremist groups, especially in Mindanao for decades now. Despite the effort, terrorism problems continue to hit the country.
This year alone, several suicide bombings incidents were reported in Sulu that claimed the lives of scores of civilians and government forces.