MANILA: The Philippines and Australia have started conducting bilateral military drills under the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) ratified by the Senate last year.
Eight Philippine Navy sailors are now in Sydney to join the Exercise Triton Century 2013 and witness the Australian International Fleet Review.
The event marks the 100th year of the Royal Australian Navy’s first fleet entry into Sydney.
“The Philippine Navy participation is historic as it marks the first contingent from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to travel to Australia and participate in joint exercises since the SOVFA was ratified in 2012,” Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said.
Members of the Philippine contingent are now on board the ship HMAS Parramatta to join the boarding activities and to cross train on various warship systems. They are expected to return the country on Monday.
Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said the activity is a great opportunity for their sailors to learn new skills.
“Filipinos and Australians have much in common, as both countries have sizable maritime borders,” Alano said in a statement.
“We find this a great opportunity for Philippine sailors to work side by side their Australian counterparts and likewise gain significant knowledge, skills and training that would be very crucial in a modernizing navy,” he added.
For his part, Australia ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell said the exercises reflect the rich defence relationship between the two countries.
“We look forward to more similar engagement in the future,” he said.
The SOVFA with Australia was ratified by the Philippine Senate in July 2012 despite claims that it could infringe into the country’s sovereignty.
The Philippine star