Lorenzana, Australian counterpart engage in first bilateral talk

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana held a telephone conversation with Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton on Friday, September 17 -- the first time that the officials had a bilateral talk since the latter assumed position earlier this year.

During their conversation, Dutton informed Lorenzana about the recent announcements made by Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States (US) on their trilateral pact, referred to as the AUKUS alliance, and Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.

Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton (Australian Department of Defence Ministers)

"The Minister conveyed that Australia is concerned about the peace and stability in the region and that the intention to acquire submarines is to develop Australia’s capability to protect its territories as well as that of its friends in the region," said Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a statement.

The Australian Defence minister, who assumed position in March 2021, clarified that the submarines will be nuclear-powered but will not be armed with nuclear weapons.

He also stressed that Australia "wants to be seen as a neighbor that promotes regional peace."

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (File photo by MANILA BULLETIN)

Meanwhile, Lorenzana acknowledged Australia’s right to improve its submarine defense capability as he highlighted that, as a country strategically situated in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is also building its own capability to protect its territories.

The DND has been modernizing the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through its revised AFP modernization program (RAFPMP).

Currently, the modernization program is on its second "horizon" or phase which will run from 2018 to 2022. The first phase was conducted from 2013 to 2017 while the third and last phase will take place from 2023 to 2028.

Among the military's new acquisitions include two missile-capable frigates -- the BRP Jose Rizal (FF150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF151), six close air support aircraft, and 16 combat utility helicopters.

Lorenzana said the Philippines "would like to maintain its good bilateral defense relations with all countries in the region" and expressed hope to meet the Australian defence minister "in person soon."