PHILIPPINE Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments and International Affairs Teodoro Cirilo T. Torralba III and Australia’s First Assistant Secretary for International Policy (FASIP) Hugh Jeffrey co-chaired the 19th Philippines-Australia Joint Defense Cooperation Committee (JDCC) Meeting via video teleconference on 23 February 2021.
Held annually as a policy dialogue platform between the defense establishments of the Philippines and Australia, the JDCC facilitated exchanges of views on the regional security situation to include the developments in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and the threat posed by terrorism. Both countries agreed that the Indo-Pacific region must go beyond major power competition and should be inclusive and rules-based in which countries, such as the Philippines and Australia, play a role in shaping the region.
Relatedly, both sides reaffirmed support for multilateral platforms, namely the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus, with the Philippine side expressing support for Australia’s co-chairmanship of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group (EWG) on Military Medicine as well as appreciation for Australia’s continuing support for ASEAN centrality.
Highlighting the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Philippines-Australia diplomatic ties, the JDCC commended the robust cooperation between the two countries despite the pandemic as seen in the high-level engagements in 2020 to include the visit of Minister Linda Reynolds in October 2020. The two sides agreed to further discuss cooperation activities in the upcoming Defense Cooperation Working Group (DCWG). Notwithstanding the activities that had to be postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, the two sides agreed to resume activities when conditions allow and to hold virtual activities in the meantime.