By Christina Mendez and Edith Regalado
MANILA, Philippines - Amid security concerns in the South China Sea, President Duterte expressed his commitment to have better ties with Australia, particularly in the fight against terrorism and ensuring freedom of navigation in the high seas.
Duterte, who has adopted an independent foreign policy, made the commitment during his meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Panacan, Davao City.
“Both emphasized the importance of (Philippines)-Australia relations and the need to broaden cooperation on mutually important issues,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
Abella said both officials underscored that terrorism and violent extremism are serious threats, with both expressing readiness to identify areas of collaboration.
“Both sides also stressed the need to address piracy at sea and to ensure that maritime areas are safe and secure and allow for freedom of navigation and overflight,” Abella added.
Abella said the Chief Executive also assured Bishop that the country would do its utmost for a strengthened ASEAN and “a region that is peaceful, progressive and prosperous.”
The Australian government, for its part, committed to support the peace process in Mindanao and announced it would contribute 40 million Australian dollars or P1.54 billion over the next six years for various projects in the area.
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