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Maritime security tackled in PNoy-Bryce meet

MANILA, Philippines - Defense cooperation and maritime security were among the wide range of issues discussed in the meeting between President Aquino and Quentin Bryce, the Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia. 

In her press statement, Bryce said that Australia and the Philippines share a common interest in ensuring maritime security “in accordance with international law.”

“We talked about the productive cooperation we enjoy on defense and security matters. We also discussed bilateral trade and investment ties which both countries agree has potential to expand,” Bryce said.

“We noted the fact that Australia and the Philippines share many common interests in the region including to ensure maritime security in accordance with international law and to strengthen economic integration,” she added. 

But presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the standoff between the Philippines and China at the Scarborough shoal was not specifically discussed in the meeting of the two leaders. 

Lacierda said there were discussions about the status of forces agreement between the two countries and that the Philippines is eyeing Australia as a “strategic partner” similar to the United States and Japan. 

“Australia is being eyed as a strategic partner,” Lacierda told reporters. 

In the meeting, President Aquino also apprised Bryce of the progress the Philippines has made in attaining the millennium development goals, saying the country is “well on track” in reducing hunger, bringing down the mortality rate among infants and children under five years old, and increasing the number of households that have access to safe water supply and sanitation facilities, among others.

Aquino said the government is “intensifying efforts” to eradicate poverty, provide universal primary education and improve maternal health. 

Aquino acknowledged the technical and financial help that Australia has given the Philippines in achieving the MDGs through AusAID.

Aquino noted that Bryce is also known as an active promoter of women’s rights. 

“I proudly related the Philippines is on track in providing education opportunities for young women and increasing the share of women in wage jobs in the non-agricultural sector. We sought the governor general’s support and cooperation in speeding up the achievement of the millennium development goals for Filipino women particularly in their economic empowerment, occupational health, and capacities for climate resiliency,” Aquino said. 

Bryce said Australia has aligned its aid program with Aquino’s priorities, focusing on infrastructure, economic governance, and poverty reduction. 

She also expressed Australia’s commitment to help the Philippines in its disaster preparedness, expressing her condolences to the Philippines for the devastation caused by tropical storm Sendong. Australia offered assistance in the aftermath of the tragedy. 

Bryce noted the contributions of Filipinos in Australia, now numbering more than 200,000 and still growing. 

“This is a very welcome development. Filipino-Australians have made excellent contributions to their adopted nation including in the fields of academia, the arts, sports, and politics and they play a key role in strengthening the bonds of friendship between our two countries,” she said. 

President Aquino confirmed that he is going to visit Australia in the next half of the year. Lacierda said the details and schedule of the trip are being ironed out by the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

Bryce said Australia is looking forward to Aquino’s visit. 

Willard Cheng | ABS-CBN News | April 12, 2012 | Article Link

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