Canberra and Manila agree on the need to uphold international law on important security issues, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Friday during his official trip to the Philippines.
“We have collective responsibility for security, including support for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. UNCLOS, that’s very important,” Albanese told Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila.
Canberra’s backing of Manila comes over overlapping maritime claims between China and the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea.
“Australia does support… the 2016 South China Sea arbitral award. That is final and it’s binding and it’s important that that be upheld going forward,” said Albanese, according to a readout released by Marcos’s office.
Albanese is the first Australian prime minister to visit the Philippines since 2003 and the two sides are upgrading their bilateral ties to “strategic partnership.”
The territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea remain highly contested despite repeated calls for a negotiated settlement and avoiding breaches of sovereignty.
In 2016, however, China was dealt a blow when the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), an international tribunal based in The Hague, the Netherlands, ruled that its nine-dash line claim has no legal basis under international law.
The Filipino and Chinese vessels regularly have encounters in the disputed waters.
Marcos thanked the Australian government on Friday for “supporting the Philippines in its claim over the West Philippine Sea and for encouraging the country to remain steadfast in protecting its territory.”
“Thanks to you, Mr. Prime Minister, for the strong support that you have made for the Philippines,” Marcos told Albanese.
Albanese assured Manila that Australia’s position on the issues in the West Philippine Sea “will continue to be consistent.”
“To have friends like you, and partners like you, especially on that subject is very gratifying, encourages us to continue down that path,” Marcos told the Australian prime minister.