Philippine would be a key recipient of Australia’s counter-terrorism package for Asia. Some Aus$92.6million are to be spent on the initiatives over the next four years.
The anti-terrorism package is to help build on existing cooperation in law enforcement, intelligence and border control in the region especially against possible entry of explosives and biological viruses to Manila’s port and into the hands of terrorists.
“We are trying to enforce tighter export control regimes to help countries develop their own systems so that terrorists’ use and access to weapons of mass destruction is cut down…There are a lot of materials that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction, so we’ll make sure that we have the right export control regimes. If these materials fall into the wrong hands, we’ll have a much more dangerous world,” said Pablo Kang, deputy head of mission of Australia’s embassy in Manila.
Manila is known to be the weakest link in anti-terrorism with its porous borders. The Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim extremist guerilla force was blacklisted by the US as a terrorist group and is known to be affiliated to Jemaah Islamiah, an Al-Qaeda linked regional terror network.
Australia and the Philippines are working to expand defense and security cooperation including efforts on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation issues. The portion of package for the Philippines translates into increased basic investigative and specialist law enforcement training and further specialist forensic and technical training by the Australian Federal Police.
The Australian government had promised to increase information sharing and exchange of expertise on border control issues with the Philippines, including support for the Regional Movement Alert List system initiative which was endorsed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders last year.
“These measures are a further manifestation of Australia’s long-term commitment to peace and development in the Philippines,” said the mission.
Philippine Defense Secretary Aveline Cruz said that the two countries are close to signing a security pact allowing Australian troops to be stationed temporarily in thePhilippines. “Hopefully, in a month or so, we will be able to conclude the Status of Forces Agreement with Australia…It will allow us to have joint military exercises relating to counter-terrorism, joint exercises relating to national disaster in our country and also in Australia,” said Mr Cruz on the sidelines of the inaugural Asean Defense Ministers Meeting.
He however stressed that the pact would not allow Australian forces to be based permanently in the Philippines on the sensitivity of external military presence. Mr. Cruz also added that similar pact was being sought with Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
‘Manila and Canberrra may sign security pact soon’ (Straits Times, 10 May 2006)
RP gets part of Australia’s (Aus)$92.6-M anti-terror package (Philippines Star, 12 May 2006)
Manila gets slice of Aussie aid package (Manila Standard Today, 12 May 2006)
RP to benefit from Australia’s anti-terror aid (INQ7 Net, 12 May 2006)