Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The Philippines' ratification of a bilateral defense agreement with Australia reinforces the strong ties between the two countries, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell said Friday.
Welcoming the Philippine Senate's ratification of the Philippines-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (Sovfa) on Monday, Tweddell cited the shared mutual defense history of the two nations.
"I am very pleased that the Philippines has ratified the agreement. Ratification underlines the strength of the bilateral defense relationship," Tweddell said in a statement.
"Australia has a proud history of defense cooperation with the Philippines. It is an important part of the strong and expanding bilateral relationship which our two countries share," he added.
The Philippine Senate on Monday ratified Sovfa, paving the way for its enforcement five years since it first signed an agreement with Australia.
Australia said the Sovfa will cover issues concerning the exchange of troops between the two countries, including immigration and customs procedures, criminal and civil jurisdiction over visiting troops and arrangements for visiting forces to wear uniforms while in the partner country.
"Once in force, the agreement will provide a more comprehensive legal framework for the presence of one country's forces in the other. It is reciprocal in nature, with the same obligations being assumed by both parties," the Australian Embassy said.
The Philippines and Australia have a standing Defense Cooperation Program where troops from both countries train together in professional development courses in both countries. Philippine military and Coast Guard personnel also take up master's studies in Australia.
A ranking Philippine Army officer likened the Sovfa to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States, noting the "continuous engagement" between members of the Philippine armed forces and its Australian counterpart.
Army vice commander Maj. Gen. Renato David said the Sovfa will help them learn how to deal with Australian troops who will train Filipino soldiers.
"The AFP has been sending officers to Australia to study while the Australian armed forces also sends people to train here," said David.
Filipino senators voted 17-1 to ratify the Sovfa between the Philippines and Australia on the third and final reading on July 24.
A statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Sovfa paved the way for enhanced cooperation in the "capacity-building and training" of the armed forces and interoperability" in the conduct of humanitarian and disaster response operations, counter-terrorism, border security and maritime security.