Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in Manila on Friday for an official visit to the Philippines, where he met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the Malacañang Palace¹. The two leaders discussed ways to strengthen cooperation on defense and maritime security, development and education, amid the rising tensions in the South China Sea.
Albanese, who is on a three-nation trip that also includes Indonesia and India, said he was honored to be the first Australian prime minister to visit the Philippines since 2003. He praised the longstanding friendship and partnership between the two countries, which share a visiting forces agreement and conduct joint military exercises.
“We have a common interest in ensuring that our region remains peaceful, stable and prosperous. We are committed to upholding the rules-based international order and respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations,” Albanese said in a joint press statement with Marcos.
Marcos, who is seeking re-election in 2024, thanked Albanese for Australia’s support for the Philippines’ development and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Australia was one of the first countries to donate vaccines and medical supplies to the Philippines, as well as provide assistance for disaster relief and education.
Marcos also expressed his appreciation for Australia’s stance on the South China Sea issue, where China claims most of the waters and has built artificial islands and military bases. The Philippines, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, also have overlapping claims in the area.
“Australia has been a steadfast partner in upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, as well as supporting the 2016 arbitral ruling that invalidated China’s excessive claims,” Marcos said, referring to the decision by an international tribunal that favored the Philippines’ case against China.
The two leaders also witnessed the signing of several agreements on cooperation in education, trade, investment, agriculture, science and technology, and renewable energy. They also agreed to enhance people-to-people exchanges and cultural ties between their countries.
Albanese also paid a courtesy call to Vice President Leni Robredo at her office in Quezon City. He also visited the Australian Embassy in Makati City, where he met with Australian business leaders and members of the Filipino-Australian community. He also laid a wreath at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) in Taguig City to honor the Filipino and Australian soldiers who fought side by side during World War II.
Albanese is scheduled to leave for India on Saturday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials. He will also visit New Delhi, Mumbai.