Strengthening partnership in civil maritime security will be a key element to commemorate the 75th diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Australia on May 22, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson AO said.


In a press briefing Monday, Robinson said Australia is expanding its engagement on maritime cooperation with the Philippines focusing on governance, systems, processes, interagency coordination, marine natural resources management, environment protection, technical assistance, research, and workshops.


He said there will be cooperation in areas of aviation and border protection.


“Australia supports the adherence to international law particularly (the) United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea and other norms and laws that governs our international waterways,” he added.


With the ongoing situation in the West Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, the envoy said “all countries should subscribe to the rules, the norms, and the laws that govern the free passage through international waters”.


Robinson said the situation should not affect trade activities within the disputed waters.


“And so, therefore, we are concerned if there is any action taken by any country that seeks to inhibit that free passage and the freedom of navigation, the freedom of overflying. And if we see anything that is unfortunate… then Australia will express its views which we have done in the past and we will continue to do so,” he said.


Patrol vessels for PH Navy


In the same briefing, Australian shipbuilder Austal is looking forward to bagging the contract to provide large patrol vessels for the Philippine Navy.


“We have growing aspirations to increase the level of technology transfer, and we see further projects over the next few months, which we hope we’ll be in a position to provide some updates now. I’m specifically referring to the offshore patrol vessels program for the Philippine Navy,” Austal regional director Dave Shiner said.


Since 2012, Austal has been operating a design and shipbuilding facility in Balamban, Cebu.


To date, it has produced 19 vessels for 11 operators in 10 countries.


Its local workforce also expanded to 900 employees from just around 50 staff when it started its operation in the Philippines.


“The geographic location of the Philippines plays an incredibly important part in all of that. We see that being centered to that growth moving forward,” Shiner said.


He added Austal is also committed to the development of the country’s sovereign shipbuilding, designing, and building capabilities.


“We are actively looking at in-service support teams and tools to enable the ongoing support, repairing, and maintenance to all the Philippines agencies, be it Navy or Coast Guard,” he said.


Hanjin takeover


The Australian Embassy here and Austal are also looking forward to finalizing negotiations in taking over the Hanjin facility in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).


“I’m hopeful that there will be some progress made in the next month or two that we’ll see a finalization of all those negotiations,” Robinson said.


He said bagging the Hanjin facility deal will push further expansion for Austal in the Philippines.


“You heard today about Austal’s commitment to the Philippines, where Austal really wants to invest further and become a shipbuilder of choice for the Philippines and the region. And that Hanjin facility, if that comes to the fore, will be a marvelous way to enable that,” he added.

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