(Nightlead) PHL, Australia strengthen economic ties

October 25, 2012 10:35 pm 

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 25 — Philippines and Australia have strengthened their economic relationship and regional partnership following the recently concluded bilateral meeting between visiting President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

In a joint statement issued after a meeting at the Parliament House Wednesday, President Aquino and Prime Minister Gillard shared the objective of increasing two-way trade and investment flows and agreed on the importance of a stable and predictable regulatory environment.

“The leaders agreed that the economic relationship between Australia and the Philippines holds great promise, building on the strong foundation provided by the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area,” the joint statement said.

Gillard acknowledged Aquino’s reform agenda to promote good governance, transparency and accountability in government as they agreed to continue working in regional and multilateral forums to advance regional economic integration and resist trade protectionism.

Both leaders also discussed the potential of the mining sector to the Philippines’ development though there were no significant investment commitments made yet since the Philippines is still under the process of clearing out its mining rules and regulations.

“We haven’t actually quantified yet what kind of investments we expect to get from mining right now. What we told them and what they understand is that we have not put in place the rules (yet),” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ramon Carandang told a press briefing here.

Gillard described the mining industry’s role in Australia’s economic success, its leadership in environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining, and the contribution Australian companies could make in the responsible development of the Philippine mining sector, particularly the development of Mindanao.

The Australian leader also welcomed Aquino’s recent announcement the Philippines will apply to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

They also noted the development cooperation activities provided by Australia that will support responsible mining in the Philippines.

A recent agreement to extend Australian market access for Philippine mangoes was also announced by Gillard which will be welcomed equally by Australian consumers and mango growers in the Philippines.

Gillard and Aquino also witnessed the signing of a new Air Services Agreement between Australia and the Philippines which will help lay the groundwork for increased trade and people to people links.

Both leaders also welcomed the recent entry into force of the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement between Australia and the Philippines as well as the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Combating Transnational Crime and Developing Police Cooperation between the Australian Federal Police and the Philippine National Police.

“The leaders noted the high level of cooperation between Australia and the Philippines on counter-terrorism,” the joint statement said.

Gillard also expressed appreciation for the Philippines’ strong support for Australia’s United Nations Security Council bid.

She and Aquino likewise agreed to increase collaboration in regional and global forums.

The two leaders underlined the importance of a successful East Asia Leaders’ Summit in November 2012, including discussion of political and security issues.

Both leaders noted that the Philippines is the country coordinator for ASEAN-Australia dialogue for the next three years.

On the issue of the South China Sea, the Australian government shied away from taking a position on competing territorial claims but vouched for the Philippines’ view to settle the dispute through a rules-based multilateral approach.

“Prime Minister Gillard noted that Australia did not take a position on competing territorial claims, but called on claimant governments to clarify and pursue their territorial claims in accordance with international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the joint statement said.

“President Aquino stressed that peace and stability in the region is a concern of all states and that central to this is a rules-based approach in addressing issues in accordance with international law. Both leaders recognized the need for governments to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could further increase tensions. The two leaders encouraged ASEAN countries and China to conclude a regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea at an early date," the statement said.

In conclusion, both Aquino and Gillard expressed satisfaction with the two countries’ strong government to government relations underpinned by their close and growing people-to-people ties.

Filipinos are one of the fastest growing immigrant communities in Australia, with some 225,000 currently living in Australia, making an important contribution to the Australian economy and society. In addition, some 6000 Filipino students are currently enrolled across all sectors of the Australian education system, according to the statement.

The two leaders welcomed their deepening and broadening partnership that would further enhance already strong bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation on shared strategic interests.

They also welcomed the inaugural bilateral Strategic Dialogue held in October 2012 and agreed to consider ways to further deepen and broaden the political, security, economic, and people-to-people relationship.

Lastly, the two Leaders welcomed recent high-level bilateral engagements and visits, including the visit to the Philippines by Australia’s Governor-General Quentin Bryce AC CVO, and the visits to Australia by a number of Philippine Cabinet Secretaries. (PNA)

HBC/PCOO/SSC

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