Last week, the Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation and the Griffith Asia Institute co-hosted a Philippines–Australia Track II dialogue in Manila, focusing on the security dimension of the relationship. It brought together academics, analysts and practitioners to talk about the security challenges facing both countries, as well as their policy responses. A key message for Australia was the need to think about options for further strengthening our strategic ties with this important Southeast Asian state beyond the battle for Marawi.

The terrorist siege in that southern Philippine city provided Canberra with an opportunity to boost defence relations by supplying much-needed assistance. The provision of surveillance support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in the form of AP-3C Orion aircraft, was particularly valued. Since then, the Australian Defence Force has stepped up its engagement by training Philippine soldiers in combined urban operations to enhance their capacity to address similar scenarios in the future.

While cooperation on counterterrorism will continue to be an important aspect of Australia–Philippines defence relations, it should be embedded within a broader strategic relationship. In particular, the two countries need to work together to manage a bigger strategic challenge: China’s quest for regional dominance and its ongoing efforts to turn the South China Sea (SCS) into a Chinese ‘lake’.

Please click here to read the full “After Marawi: advancing Australia–Philippines strategic relations” article published in The Strategist, written by Professor Benjamin Schreer, Macquarie University, and Professor Ian Hall, member of the Griffith Asia Institute.