Australia has expressed its stand regarding the issue that gathered “a lot of international attention in recent months”, the issue of maritime disputes in West Philippine Sea. “Australia has a legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea,” Australian Defense Minister Kevin Andrews told an audience at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India September 2.
While making it clear that Australia does not take sides on competing territorial claims, the Australian Defense Minister said “we are concerned that large-scale land reclamation and construction activity by China and other claimants raises tensions in the region.”
“It is important to recognise that all states have a right under international law to freedom of overflight in international airspace. All countries should respect this,” Andrews said. “Australia strongly opposes the use of intimidation, aggression or coercion to advance any country’s claims or unilaterally alter the status quo.”
“We are particularly concerned about the possible militarisation of features in the South China Sea,” he added.
Australia and Philippines have strong military ties. The two countries have a bilateral visiting forces agreement known as Philippine-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA).
Just recently, Australia donated two Landing Craft Heavy (LCH) to Philippine Navy. The two donated vessels, BRP Ivatan and BRP Batak, arrived in the country early August.