The Philippines Shows Off Capabilities in Naval Exercise with Australia
As China expands its hold over the Pacific, the Philippines is growing its list of potential strategic allies around the world. The move could be seen as an attempt not to over-rely on the United States when it comes to security issues. Australia is among the countries that are forging closer strategic partnerships with the Philippines.
On September 25, the Philippines participated in the Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2021 with Australia, sending the BRP Antonio Luna to the exercises. The exercises were held off the coast of Cabra Island in Occidental Mindoro.
The BRP Antonio Luna is the Philippine Navy's newest and most capable asset. It is a twin of the BRP Jose Rizal. Both warships were built by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries and delivered to the Philippines in 2020.
Meanwhile, Australia sent three of its warships: Her Majesty’s Australian Ships (HMAS) Canberra III, Anzac, and Sirius.
What is the Indo-Pacific Endeavor?
Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2021 is Australia’s initiative to enhance bilateral relations with Southeast Asian countries through military training and other engagements. The Philippines is Australia's final stop in September.
“Commencing in 2017, Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) is an annual Australian Defence Force (ADF) activity which delivers on the promise of the 2016 Defence White Paper to strengthen Australia’s engagement and partnerships with regional security forces,” Australia’s Department of Defence states.
“Australia’s vision for the Indo-Pacific is a region that is secure, open, prosperous and resilient,” it adds.
Australia’s Spat Involving the U.S. and France
Australia recently figured in an international spat with the U.S. and France after it cancelled a deal to purchase nuclear submarines from the French in favor of another deal pushed by the U.S. As a consequence, France recalled its ambassador in the U.S. and has demanded Australia pay for the cost of the submarines.
Asian countries have opposed Australia’s bid to procure nuclear submarines, arguing it could trigger an arms race in an already sensitive region. Malaysia and Indonesia, both possessing attack submarines, voiced their opposition. The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia who is supporting Australia’s bid to acquire nuclear subs.
On September 19, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. expressed support to Australia in its wish to expand its navy’s capabilities through the acquisition of nuclear submarines.
“The enhancement of a near-abroad ally's ability to project power should restore and keep the balance rather than destabilize it,” said Locsin.