By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

IMPROVED TIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday (Feb. 29, 2024) delivers a joint statement with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese after addressing the Australian Parliament. In his remarks delivered at the Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra, Australia, Marcos said he looks forward to improved Philippines and Australia’s relations. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday expressed optimism that the Philippines and Australia will continue to elevate their relations by improving defense, economic, maritime, and technology cooperation.

In his remarks delivered at the Prime Minister’s Office in Canberra, Australia, Marcos said he had a “very engaging” discussion with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on a wide range of opportunities and issues under the two nations’ strategic partnership.

“Our conversation centered on ways to maximize the enhanced status of relations between our two countries, including on defense, maritime cooperation, non-traditional security concerns, trade and investment, development cooperation, multilateral collaboration, and people-to-people linkages,” Marcos said.

The President said the three agreements signed during his visit to Canberra would help enhance information sharing, capability-building, and interoperability between the relevant government agencies of both countries in the maritime domain and maritime environment, cyber and critical technology, and competition law.

The three agreements add to the over 120 existing agreements between the Philippines and Australia in various fields, including defense cooperation, air services, education, research, and scientific and cultural cooperation.

“The Prime Minister and I both agreed to continue to look for ways to explore every option possible, to bring our countries closer than ever and collectively, with optimism and hopeful outlook, to be a force of good, unity, stability, and prosperity in our region,” Marcos said.

The Chief Executive is looking forward to amplifying the joint activities and the capacity-building efforts between the Philippines and Australia, considering that defense and security “remains a key area of cooperation” of the two countries.

He said future consultations and dialogues are welcome to “explore and map the uncharted waters that can bring in new opportunities for a closer and stronger relationship between our two countries.”

Marcos said he is also hopeful about the two nations’ deepening economic ties to enable them to withstand shocks and become resilient against economic coercion.

He added that an improved economic cooperation would provide an enabling environment for the Philippine and Australian businesses and labor markets to further flourish.

“At the same time, we look forward to our robust people-to-people ties to drive greater cooperation between our two countries and our peoples,” Marcos said.

“The significant Filipino diaspora, the fifth largest immigrant community here in Australia, has contributed significantly to the economic and cultural well-being not only of our country but yours as well. It is also an undeniable indicator of Australia’s openness to embrace a globalized and interconnected world,” he added.

Marcos is in Canberra as a “guest” of the Australian government.

Before delivering a joint statement with Albanese, he addressed the Australian Parliament, highlighting the need for the two countries to work together to defend and uphold “open, inclusive, and rules-based” international order.

Marcos is set to return home on Thursday. (PNA)