The Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting Joint Ministerial Statement
23 August 2021
1. The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, and the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Teodoro Locsin Jr, and Secretary of Trade and Industry, the Hon Ramon Lopez, held the fifth Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM) on 23 August 2021, amidst the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Noting that 2021 marks the 75th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and Australia, the Ministers and Secretaries recalled that since 1946, our relationship has developed into a deep and wide-ranging friendship that is comprehensive, mature and multidimensional, covering political, economic, defence, security, development and education partnerships, underpinned by strong and growing people-to-people links.
3. The Ministers and Secretaries acknowledged the significance of the PAMM as a strategic dialogue to chart the direction and vision of bilateral relations, under the framework of the 2015 Joint Declaration on the Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries.
4. As a commitment under our Comprehensive Partnership, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women of Australia endorsed the Philippines-Australia Plan of Action 2021-22 and instructed Senior Officials to review the progress and make recommendations to strengthen the bilateral architecture. They expressed confidence in the advancement of the Comprehensive Partnership and agreed to work towards the elevation of bilateral relations to a Strategic Partnership in the near future, as articulated in the Plan of Action to be reflective of the mature and wide-ranging cooperation between the Philippines and Australia.
5. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose enormous challenges. The Ministers and Secretaries expressed condolences for lives lost. They acknowledged the ongoing engagement between the Philippines and Australia in health security including the AUD523 million Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative, over 2020-23, for vaccine procurement, delivery support and the provision of technical assistance, which will provide AUD35.9 million for the Philippines and AUD21 million to support the establishment of the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED). The Ministers and Secretaries also acknowledged Australia’s broader vaccine-related support to the region, including the AUD1 million for the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund to procure vaccines in partnership with UNICEF; the AUD130 million for the COVAX Facility’s Advance Market Commitment which will provide sufficient vaccines for almost 32 million people in the Philippines; the AUD100 million contribution to the Quad Vaccine Partnership, with the focus on vaccine provision and delivery in Southeast Asia; and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement at the G7 meeting on 11 June 2021 that Australia will share at least 20 million vaccines doses for people across our region by mid-2022. Australia also announced that arrangements were underway for the immediate provision of 100 oxygen concentrators to the Philippines.
6. The Ministers and Secretaries agreed that our development cooperation is a longstanding and important aspect of our relationship. The Australian Ministers reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to the development partnership with the Philippines to strengthen health security; maintain stability via activities such as supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mindanao and responding to humanitarian crises; and promote economic recovery. The Philippines welcomed Australia’s Partnerships for Recovery which responds to the COVID-19 pandemic with response and recovery support for the Philippines (AUD79 million for 2021-22).
7. The Ministers and Secretaries agreed on the fundamental importance of security and defence cooperation between the Philippines and Australia, including through long-term capacity building, exercises and training. They underscored the importance of our bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperative Defence Activities and the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA). The Ministers and Secretaries were pleased that defence engagement continued during the pandemic and that the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program had proven its flexibility. They agreed that our long-standing security partnerships reflect a shared recognition that cooperation is the most effective way to address instability and traditional and non-traditional security threats, including transnational crime.
8. The Ministers and Secretaries underscored the importance of ongoing cooperation on counter-terrorism, intelligence-sharing, border security, transport and law enforcement. The Ministers and Secretaries also acknowledged and agreed to continue to implement commitments relating to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
9. The Ministers and Secretaries agreed that our two nations would continue to work closely to implement our commitments to uphold human rights through dialogue and constructive engagement. Particular reference was made to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in October 2020 where Australia co-sponsored an Icelandic and Philippine joint resolution seeking technical assistance and capacity building for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. The Philippines also conveyed that the UN Joint Program on Human Rights (UNJP) had been finalised and launched in July 2021. The Program is aimed at enhancing the capacity of national institutions and actors and strengthening the Philippines’ compliance with its international human rights obligations.
10. The Ministers and Secretaries engaged in an exchange of views on a range of regional strategic issues, including maritime security. They reaffirmed their shared aspiration for a maritime domain that is peaceful, stable and secure. They noted the importance of ongoing cooperation on maritime security and welcomed new initiatives to expand cooperation on maritime issues, including the establishment of a Philippines-Australia Maritime Dialogue mechanism this year.
11. The Ministers and Secretaries expressed serious concern about the continuing militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea, the dangerous and coercive use of coast guard vessels and maritime militias, and efforts to disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities. They emphasised that the actions of a state’s coast guard, and its associated legal frameworks, must be consistent with international law. The Ministers and Secretaries reiterated the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight and that all disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They noted the fifth anniversary of the 2016 South China Sea Arbitration Award and reaffirmed that it is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute. They called for any Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to be fully consistent with international law, in particular UNCLOS, not prejudice the interests of third parties or the rights of states under international law, and support existing inclusive regional architecture.
12. The Ministers and Secretaries shared their serious concerns about developments in Myanmar and called for an immediate cessation of violence and inclusive dialogue between parties. They also called for the release of all those arbitrarily detained, including Australian Professor Sean Turnell. They agreed on the important role for ASEAN in facilitating a peaceful solution in Myanmar and in this regard, they welcomed the appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei Darussalam as the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar. They called for implementation of the Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar adopted at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 as soon as possible, and looked forward to an early visit to Myanmar by the Special Envoy, where he should have full access to all parties concerned. The Secretaries and Ministers also expressed concern about the impact of recent events on humanitarian crises across Myanmar and the surge in COVID-19 cases, and called on the military regime to enable safe, unimpeded access for donors, and to support health workers to provide care to those in need.
13. The Ministers and Secretaries noted the Philippines’ and Australia’s history of continuing positive engagement in regional and multilateral fora, including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the United Nations.
14. The Ministers and Secretaries emphasised their strong support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led architecture. They agreed that ASEAN principles of openness, transparency, inclusivity and respect for international law, including the objectives and principles set out in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, are the foundation for peace and security in the Indo-Pacific. They acknowledged Australia’s enduring commitment to ASEAN and Southeast Asia, as manifested by the agreement to hold the annual ASEAN-Australia Leaders’ Summits and agreed to continue to enhance the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership through our broad agenda of cooperation across the three ASEAN Communities. They acknowledged Australia’s support of approximately AUD500 million in new economic, development and security measures to support Southeast Asia’s recovery from COVID-19, in line with priority areas of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. They agreed to continue working together, and with partners on our shared interest in an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
15. The Ministers and Secretaries reaffirmed their ongoing support for the rules-based multilateral trading system, and the importance of a well-functioning WTO, to support global economic recovery and to respond to the needs of all members, including developing and least developed country members. They recommitted to working closely to advance WTO reform efforts, particularly to revitalise the WTO dispute settlement system, and to secure ambitious outcomes at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) later this year. They committed to deepen bilateral trade and investment relations by creating the best possible conditions for businesses to flourish including through the timely resolution of market access issues and the elimination of unnecessary barriers to trade. They recognised that addressing these issues is necessary in order to achieve mutually beneficial trade. They endorsed the outcomes of the Philippines-Australia Trade, Industry and Investment Dialogue held in April 2021 and underscored its role in pursuing post pandemic economic recovery and in building sustained partnership through trade, investments, and economic cooperation initiatives.
16. The Ministers and Secretaries noted existing trade agreements, such as the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), which have reduced a wide range of tariffs on trade between our two countries. They also noted the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) which would complement the implementation of and upgrade AANZFTA by further promoting inclusive and equitable growth in the region. Australia welcomed the Philippines’ interest in possible accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), as a high-standard Agreement which further promotes and supports regional economic integration. They also agreed to work together in areas of mutual interest in APEC and the WTO. The Ministers and Secretaries further agreed to work together and with partners to address economic challenges and unfair and unreasonable trade and economic practices.
17. The Ministers and Secretaries discussed the global economic outlook in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed confidence that Philippine-Australian economic ties and two-way trade and investment would continue to grow in coming years, as both economies recover from the pandemic. They recognised that open and collaborative education, science and research, cyber/digital, clean energy and innovation would play important roles in driving sustainable economic growth.
18. The Ministers and Secretaries committed to continue to collaborate on climate change, including the commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement and to step up global action to tackle climate change in the lead up to COP26 in 2021, and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management.
19. The Ministers and Secretaries acknowledged the strong people-to-people ties of the Philippines and Australia, built over decades through exchanges in migration, education, and business. Both looked forward to further strengthening people-to-people connections through activities arising from the proposed Work and Holiday Visa Arrangement and implementation of the Executive Program of the 1977 Cultural Agreement.