Visiting Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds affirmed Thursday her country’s commitment to upholding maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, including in the volatile South China, during her first visit to the Philippines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the Embassy of Australia in the Philippines said Reynolds conveyed this message to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana during their face-to-face meeting to discuss respective COVID-19 responses and the shared commitment of Australia and the Philippines to regional security and stability.
During discussions, the top Australian defense also emphasized their support for the rights of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“The Philippines is an important security partner for Australia, and we continue to work closely together in support of our shared commitment to an open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” the Australian Embassy said.
Australia is part of the so-called “Quad” power alliance in the Indo-Pacific region composed of the United States, Japan, and India, a strategic response to China’s growing military and political strength in the region.
On COVID-19 response, Reynolds announced that Australia will provide up to two million Australian dollars (P70 million) in medical and personal protective equipment to support the infectious disease wards at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ five main medical centers across the country.
Australia’s COVID-19 support to the Philippines will include items and equipment such as beds, mechanical ventilators, electrocardiogram machines, laboratory fridges, cardiac monitors, pulse oximeters, UV sterilizers, and personal protective equipment to assist frontliners in their COVID-19 response, all being implemented “in the spirit of mateship and Bayanihan.”
The Australian Embassy said the latest assistance is part of the one million Australian dollars (P35 million) support that Australia provided through its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Program for the expansion of the infectious disease ward of the Victoriano Luna Medical Center in Manila earlier this year.
The embassy assured that all aspects of Reynolds’ visit were conducted with strict adherence to safety and health measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks.