The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Kevin Rudd MP, and Minister for Trade, the Hon Craig Emerson MP, along with the Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Albert del Rosario and Secretary of Trade and Industry, the Hon Gregory Domingo, met in Canberra on 16 June 2011 for the third Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting.
The Ministers and Secretaries committed to a deepening partnership between Australia and the Philippines, which would enhance our already strong cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. They welcomed the substantial progress in implementing the commitments arising from the second Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting in Manila in 2008 and agreed on key future priorities.
Noting that 2011 marks the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Philippines, Ministers and Secretaries underlined that our enduring friendship, nurtured by strong people to people links, had grown into a mature and wide-ranging partnership. Our shared strategic interests provided significant potential for further growth in cooperation including in defence, security, economic and development issues.
Cooperation on counter-terrorism
The Secretaries and Ministers reviewed the regional security outlook. They welcomed the gains made in combating terrorism, including in the southern Philippines, and reaffirmed their determination to continue to work together through bilateral and regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism. They welcomed the outcomes of the 2010 and ongoing bilateral counter-terrorism consultations, and noted the important practical cooperation between our security authorities.
Defence and Security Cooperation
The Secretaries and Ministers agreed on the fundamental importance of defence cooperation between the Philippines and Australia, including in capacity building, professionalisation, and the training of around 110 Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel in Australia over the last year. Australian Ministers welcomed the Philippines' reaffirmation of its commitment to the ratification of the reciprocal Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), concluded in Australia in 2007. The Secretaries and Ministers welcomed our important cooperation on maritime security and agreed to explore options for expanding this work in the context of the Philippine Government's formal establishment of National Coast Watch System. They also welcomed our ongoing practical cooperation in border security, transport and law enforcement.
The Secretaries and Ministers discussed the resumption of peace negotiations in the southern Philippines and looked forward to a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict. They agreed that peace was essential to building hope and opportunity in conflict-affected Mindanao, and for the stability and development of the Philippines. Philippines Secretaries welcomed Australia's support for peace and stability in Mindanao through important development assistance. Australia's level of development projects in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao is one of the highest coming from a bilateral partner of the Philippines. Australian Ministers committed to engaging in further practical and constructive ways to support the peace process, including through assistance to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Trade and Investment
The Secretaries and Ministers agreed to target sustained growth of trade and investment links. They agreed on the importance of continuing close cooperation, including with their respective business communities, to realise the opportunities created by the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement to enhance bilateral and regional economic integration. They also committed to continue to promote bilateral investment and encourage the expansion of bilateral trade. Australian Ministers welcomed the Aquino Administration's reform agenda, which promises to improve the business environment while driving economic growth and poverty alleviation. The Secretaries highlighted Public Private Partnership (PPP) on strategic infrastructure projects of the Philippines as a vital element of its economic development efforts. The Secretaries and Ministers agreed on the potential of PPPs for further deepening commercial linkages between the two countries, given the strengths of Australian infrastructure-related companies.
The Secretaries and Ministers agreed on the potential of the mining sector to generate significant economic and development benefits for the Philippines, as it had for Australia. They welcomed the increasing Australian investment in the Philippine mining sector and noted that Australian expertise in sustainable mining practices and mining technology services could assist the development of responsible mining in the Philippines. They agreed that Australia would host the 2nd Joint Working Group on Mining in the second half of 2011 and Australian Ministers welcomed prospects for a high-level mining delegation visit from the Philippines.
The Secretaries and Ministers welcomed the strong growth in education and technical and vocational training cooperation, including through twinning arrangements and other partnerships between Australia and Philippine institutions. They noted the continued growth in Filipino enrolments in Australia and new opportunities for further institutional linkages.
The Philippines reiterated its strong interest in further strengthening people-to-people links through a bilateral Social Security Agreement (SSA), in view of the increasing number of Filipinos in Australia.
The Secretaries and Ministers welcomed the establishment of the Australia-Philippines Agriculture Forum, with the inaugural meeting held in April in Manila. They noted the range of issues discussed, covering global and regional matters of mutual interest such as food security and the effect of climate change on agriculture, as well as market access issues and agricultural cooperation. Both sides noted the opportunity provided by the Forum to enhance the bilateral agricultural relationship, including through closer engagement on agriculture-related cooperation and trade matters.
The Trade Minister and Trade Secretary discussed the status of and prospects for trade and economic relations with representatives of the Australian and Philippines business community. They commended the contributions of the Philippines-Australia Business Council, the Australia-Philippines Business Council and the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce to promoting the expansion of trade and investment and underlined the scope for further growth. They also welcomed the inaugural Philippines-Australia-New Zealand Business Forum to be held in Manila in July 2011, which will provide a high-profile trade and investment promotion opportunity for Australian and Filipino businesses.
The Ministers and Secretaries agreed that our development cooperation is a longstanding and important aspect of our relationship. Australian Ministers reaffirmed Australia's commitment to a long term engagement to reduce poverty in the Philippines through support for basic education; improving local government capacity to deliver basic services; strengthened climate change adaptation and disaster risk management; and improving the prospects for peace and security. Ministers and Secretaries noted accountable, transparent and effective governance was essential to reducing poverty in the Philippines.
Ministers and Secretaries noted recent achievements of the development cooperation program, contributing to the achievement of improved access to quality schooling for approximately 2 million Filipino children through Australian funded basic education programs and a 92.3 per cent decline in deaths from malaria across 26 provinces as a result of an Australian supported World Health Organisation program.
Ministers and Secretaries reflected on the substantial and ongoing contribution of Australia's development assistance to improving human capital in the Philippines. They noted that at least 120 Filipinos would be awarded scholarships to study in Australia over the coming year, adding to the 2,000 Filipino scholars who have studied in Australia since the 1940s.
They welcomed the significant contribution of Australia's development assistance program, increasing to AU$123 million in 2011-12. Welcoming the Philippine Government's positive reform agenda, Australian Ministers announced new initiatives on Public-Private Partnerships to boost private sector investment in critical infrastructure; to progress important public financial management reforms; and to use state-of-the-art technology to map natural disaster and climate change risks across densely populated Metro Manila.
Regional and Multilateral Engagements
The Secretaries and Ministers noted the Philippines' and Australia's history of continuing positive engagement in regional and multilateral fora, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Plus, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the United Nations. The Secretaries and Ministers agreed to continue close cooperation in the United Nations on matters of mutual interest, including peacekeeping and peacebuilding, UN reform, and interfaith and inter-religious dialogue. The Secretaries expressed support for Australia's candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in 2013-14.
The Secretaries and Ministers engaged in extensive and detailed discussions on a range of regional strategic issues such as maritime security. The subjects of these discussions included the South China Sea, on which Ministers and Secretaries reaffirmed the view of both countries that territorial disputes should be settled peacefully and in a manner consistent with international law. Australian Ministers welcomed the presentation by the Philippines of its Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFF/C) initiative. The Ministers and Secretaries agreed on the value of rules-based cooperative approaches, based on respect for international law, particularly UNCLOS. The Ministers and Secretaries agreed on the importance of sustaining bilateral dialogue on strategic and regional issues of mutual interest, and agreed to establish a strategic dialogue at senior officials' level to take this forward.
The Secretaries and Ministers agreed that the expansion of the EAS to include the United States and Russia was a positive development for the region and would enrich discussions at the EAS. They agreed on the central importance of ASEAN, working in partnership with other EAS countries, in encouraging discussions on political, economic and security issues in the region and ensuring that EAS members commit to priority areas of cooperation. In this context, Australia and the Philippines agreed to continue to work together closely in the lead up to the 6th EAS in November 2011, including in areas such as finance, education and disaster management and discussions on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia.
The Secretaries and Ministers agreed on the importance of concerted international action to address trans-boundary issues such as climate change and discussed the outlook for the multilateral negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In particular, Ministers welcomed efforts to secure the prompt and effective implementation of the Cancun Agreements, including the mechanisms and frameworks that provide the building blocks for the future climate regime. In this context, they looked forward to climate change consultations between Australian and Philippine officials in the second half of 2011. They also welcomed ongoing regional cooperation on people smuggling and trafficking in persons through the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crimes.
The Secretaries and Ministers discussed the global economic outlook and underscored the need for continuing global and regional cooperation on economic and financial issues, including through the G20, the East Asia Summit and APEC. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to the successful conclusion of the WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations, including as partners in the Cairns Group.
The Secretaries and Ministers agreed that the 4th Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting would be hosted by the Philippines in 2013.
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