Australia, Philippines In Firm And Fast Lockstep Against China

(MENAFN- Asia Times) Ahead of the special Australia-ASEAN summit in Melbourne, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr made a historic state visit Down Under, where he spoke before the Australian Parliament.

“[T]he Philippines now finds itself on the frontline against actions that undermine regional peace, erode regional stability and threaten regional success,” declared Marcos Jr in an impassioned speech before Australian legislators without naming China.

“I will not allow any attempt by any foreign power to take even one square inch of our sovereign territory,” he added, vowing to remain steadfast in defending the Philippines' sovereign rights in the hotly disputed South China Sea. The area has been the site of multiple encounters between Philippine and Chinese vessels in the past year.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese hailed the Philippines as a“strategic partner” and signed multiple deals with Marcos Jr aimed at cementing“enhanced maritime cooperation” while vowing to“collaborate even more closely to promote our shared vision for the region.”

In response, a state-backed Chinese newspaper slammed Marcos Jr's address as a cynical ploy“to drag [an] ally into provocative strategy”, arguing that the Philippines is rallying Western powers to keep China's ambitions in the South China Sea in check.

In many ways, Australia hopes that Marcos Jr's address sets the tone for the upcoming summit with Southeast Asian leaders. But while Philippine-Australia bilateral relations seem to be on an upward trajectory, if not entering a new“golden era”, it's unlikely that other ASEAN leaders will follow through.

If anything, the Philippines may, once again, end up as a regional outlier. Eight years earlier, the pro-Beijing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was the only no-show ASEAN leader at the inaugural Australia-ASEAN Summit.

This time, the incumbent Philippine president is likely the only Southeast Asian leader fully invested in a full-blown security partnership with Australia with an eye on China.

Closest of friends

“Australia remains, and will continue to be, one of our closest friends...we shall forge ahead in fully maximizing the potentials and the gains from this Strategic Partnership between our two forward-looking, law-abiding maritime states,” Marcos said upon his arrival in Australia last week.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr together with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the signing of a Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Philippines and Australia at Malacañang Palace, September 8, 2023. Photo: PPA Pool / Yummie Dingding


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