Thursday, May 31, 2007

Australia and the Philippines Sign Defense Agreement

This is good news, from the "exporting security" department:

The Philippines and Australia on Thursday signed a defence pact which will see elite Australian commandos and soldiers train Philippines troops to step up the fight against insurgents in the troubled south.
Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Australian Prime Minister John Howard signed an agreement which will also see Canberra supply 28 high-speed gunboats to help security forces fight Islamic militants and communist rebels.
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The pact will clear the way for Australian troops, including elite Special Air Services soldiers, to train and exercise with Philippines forces, but would not lead to Australian bases in the country, the Philippines government said.
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Ebdane said Australian security forces could also help with forensic work and disaster relief, and cooperate in the hunt for militants based in the Philippines but linked to the Jemaah Islamiah extremist group.
Arroyo said the pact would help "modernise and professionalise" the Philippines armed forces, like a similar agreement between her country and close ally the United States, which already donates millions of dollars in military aid.
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The Australian-donated patrol boats will be used by Philippines army commandos to patrol shallow marshlands in the south, where suspected Muslim militants are hiding.
The boats, worth $4 million, would be delivered late in 2007 and could also be used in shallow rivers in other parts of the country, where communist rebels have a strong presence.
Australia will also fund Filipino soldiers attending advanced training and education at Australian war colleges.
Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said aid would also be increased by almost A$32 million ($26 million) to the Philippines to help tackle poverty and boost infrastructure, with overall aid to reach A$100 million over the next year.
Arroyo was visiting Australia to try and boost trade and investment ties currently worth A$1.7 billion.
Australia has been trying to build security ties with Southeast Asian nations to crackdown on Jemaah Islamiah, blamed for bombings in Indonesia which have killed 92 Australians.

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