Press Briefing

Press Briefing of Ms. Daphne Oseña-Paez with DFA Spokesperson Ambassador Teresita Daza and DFA-Office of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Affairs Asst. Secretary Daniel Espiritu

Event PCO Press Briefing with DFA
Location New Executive Building, Malacañang, Manila

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Magandang umaga, Malacañang Press Corps, and welcome sa ating pre-departure press briefing ngayong araw, February 27, 2024.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is leaving for Australia next week to address the parliament and attend the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

To give us more information on this we have with us Department of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Ambassador Teresita Daza and ASEAN Affairs Assistant Secretary Daniel Espiritu. Good morning.

DFA SPOKESPERSON DAZA: Thank you, Daphne. Many of you have read articles on this already, but just to add, President Ferdinand R. Marcos will undertake a guest of government visit to Australia on 28th to 29th February 2024 upon the invitation of Governor General David Hurley.

It can be recalled that Governor General Hurley, as Australia’s head of state, represented the Australian people during the inauguration of the President. Last year, the Philippines also welcomed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese which saw the landmark elevation of Philippine-Australia relations from a comprehensive to a strategic partnership.

During this visit, the President will have the honor of addressing the parliament of Australia where he is expected to convey a shared vision and future with Australia under the ambit of the strategic partnership and informed by common history, long-standing people-to-people ties and mutual adherence to the rules-based order and international law.

The President will likewise have a formal exchange of views and insights on various areas of cooperation and regional issues with Governor General Hurley, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Australian parliamentary leaders.

The visit is envisioned to further cement the strategic partnership that we affirmed the two countries’ shared interests in regional prosperity and peace. The President’s visit and official activities in Canberra shall further strengthen existing bonds of cooperation and shall enable discussions for new avenues of collaboration as both the Philippines and Australia look forward to celebrating the 78th anniversary of diplomatic relations later this year.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Thank you, Ambassador Daza. Go ahead, sir.

DFA ASEC. ESPIRITU: Thank you, Daphne, and good morning to members of the Malacañang Press Corps. It’s a pleasure once again to be with you to brief you on the latest ASEAN Summit.

So the President is also flying to Melbourne on March 4 to 6, 2004 to participate in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Relations, this time, at the invitation of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

If you will remember, Australia is the ASEAN’s oldest dialogue partner. It’s also one of the most active, one of the most dynamic in all fronts – in the political security, economic and socio-cultural pillars of ASEAN.

As the first ASEAN Leaders level engagement for the year, the summit presents an opportunity for us to present the Philippines’ core position on regional and international issues and set the tone for dialogue partner summits later in the year, especially in October.

There will be two main engagements on the summit proper on March 6 – the Leaders Plenary, where the leaders will review ASEAN-Australia cooperation through the years and propose ways forward to further bolster relations; then, we’ll also have a Leaders Retreat, where the leaders will exchange views on key geopolitical developments and issues affecting our region and the world.

For the leaders plenary, the President may take the opportunity to thank Australia for its unwavering support for the rule of law and for the 1982 UNCLOS and the 2016 Arbitral Award. The President may also highlight ASEAN-Australia cooperation on maritime issues, climate and clean energy track, people-to-people exchange, and economic cooperation.

At the Leaders Retreat, the President may encourage Australia to remain committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to maintain respect for the rules-based international order and multilateralism which is currently very much under challenge.

Aside from the Special Summit, Australia also organized working level events that are aligned on the following four thematic tracks: A maritime cooperation track; a maritime forum, which is a Philippine initiative and where Secretary Enrique Manalo will deliver the keynote remarks together with Foreign Minister Penny Wong of Australia. There’s also a climate and clean energy track representatives from the DOE and the DENR will participate in working level discussions. Then, there’s the emerging leaders track where Australia intends to foster people-to-people ties among ASEAN and Australia’s young leaders. To this will be invited young Filipino CEOs to engage civil society, government and business sectors of ASEAN and Australia.

The following or the anticipated outcome documents of the summit, the ASEAN-Australia leaders’ vision statement, partners for peace and prosperity which is an outline of the basic principles which would commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations; then second, the Melbourne Declaration. The formal partner is a partnership for the future, joint declaration for the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Dialogue Partnership.

Now, this is a more specific outline of areas of cooperation in ASEAN to implement the instructions, the basic instructions under the ASEAN-Australia leaders’ vision statement. Now, both documents are still under negotiation at this point.

Now, during the summit also and on the sidelines of the summit, there will also be an opportunity for the President to meet with the Filipino community in Melbourne, as well as to promote Philippine business for the Philippine Business Forum led by our Department of Trade and Industry.

So the President has the following engagements: On Monday, March 4, he will deliver the keynote remarks at the Lowy Institute at 6 P.M. He will highlight the Philippine’s role as an active participant in world affairs and a contributor to the rules-based regional security architecture.

Then at 7:40 P.M. on the same day, March 4, there will be a Filipino community event at the town hall of Melbourne.

Now, on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, he will deliver remarks at the Victoria International Container Terminal. Now, this is important since this will involve the launching of the expansion of the Victoria International Container Terminal which is Australia’s first fully-automated container terminal. Now, this terminal is a subsidiary of the Philippine International Container Terminal Service Incorporated, and it’s a testament to ICTSI’s leadership in the field of global port management.

There will also bilateral meetings with Cambodia and New Zealand and after that, an opportunity to promote Philippine business for the Philippine Business Forum to be led by the Department of Trade and Industry.

I guess I’ll stop here and open ourselves for your questions.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Thank you, Assistant Secretary Espiritu. Any questions? Eden Santos, NET25.

EDEN SANTOS/NET25: Good morning po. Tanong ko lang po, ano po iyong difference ng pagbisita ni PBBM sa February 28-29 doon po sa March 4 t0 6? Bakit hindi na lang po pinagsabay iyong event or sinama sa iisang foreign trip?

DFA SPOKESPERSON DAZA: It’s actually the organizers who can answer that question. But the difference is, for the 28th and 29th, it’s largely in terms of Philippine-Australian relations. So it covers the whole gamut of cooperation between the two countries, and it’s upon the invitation of the Governor who serves as the head of state of Australia. And it is in a way similar to a state visit, because it’s upon invitation of the Governor, and the Governor is hosting the visit of the President in Canberra. As you all know, Canberra is the capital of Australia.

So that’s the first leg of the visit to Australia. The second, of course, is related to ASEAN largely in terms of the celebration of the ASEAN-Australia Commemorative Summit. But as already mentioned by Asec. Dan, there will be side events. And one of the side events, as already mentioned, is the FilCom meeting which will not be held in Canberra and there’s also a reason for that largely because many of our Filipinos are actually in New South Wales and in Victoria, so it’s in Melbourne that is being held, and that would allow him to actually meet more Filipinos in the area. So that’s one.

But his other talks like in terms of Lowy Institute and the business forum will actually be held in Melbourne. So, it is one whole but it is cut because the commemorative summit is in March 6 and there are activities before that but because the bilateral meetings are actually…the state visit is actually 28 and 29, the President will come back to the Philippines then go back for the commemorative summit in Melbourne.

EDEN SANTOS/NET 25: So, parang naputol lang po? May mahalaga po bang schedule ang Pangulo dito sa ating bansa kaya kailangan niyang bumalik?

DFA SEC. DAZA: Naku, hindi kami yata ang magsasagot niyan. So, Eden, so siguro … But I think if you look at it because it’s quite how many days before the, so it’s maybe…three days, before the March 4 to 6. I think the decision was for him to come back to address other issues. As to which issues – I think, the OP will be in the best position to answer that.

EDEN SANTOS/NET 25: Pero doon sa Feb. 28 – 29 po, kasama pa rin po sa mga pag-uusapan doon sa formal talks iyong about sa issue ng South China Sea and other ano po?

DFA SEC. DAZA: Oo, Eden, yes. We have very strong defense and security relations with Australia, they have been partners with us for a long time even before the official establishment of relations because they were with us as partners during World War II and now the relations has actually seen an elevation from comprehensive to strategic partnership. And so in terms of defense and security, that will actually be talked, will be discussed. But also, in terms of what’s happening in the region and what is happening within our region, one issue will be South China Sea. And it’s also worth mentioning that Australia and the Philippines are maritime nations, and it cannot be denied that it will be something that will have to be raised as well.

EDEN SANTOS/NET 25: Thank you po.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay. Sam Medenilla, Business Mirror.

SAM MEDENILLA/BUSINESS MIRROR: For Ma’am Daza po. Itatanong ko lang po kung during the visit doon sa state visit po sa Canberra may expected outcome documents po ba tayo at saka mayroon po bang related sa security or sa business or agriculture?

DFA SEC. DAZA: Yes on both, but I’m not at liberty to actually detail it at this point in time because we cannot preempt the visit and I think appropriate announcements will be made after because the visit and the activities of the President as guest of government, they’re really looking forward to finalizing agreements that will further bilateral relations under the framework of the strategic partnership.

So if you look at the joint declaration on strategic partnership between the Philippines and Australia, you’ll be able to see the whole range of areas of cooperation between the two countries, and if you note – defense cooperation, economic cooperation, people-to-people linkages are some of the issues that actually have been incorporated in the joint declaration.

So, yes, there will be agreements but I cannot detail these at this point in time.

SAM MEDENILLA/BUSINESS MIRROR: Ma’am, puwede po bang malaman kahit ilan lang po iyong documents na expected or ano pa rin po iyon?

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Siguro you just wait but there will be. Definitely, there will be agreements that are being finalized and this is where I want to explain, when the President goes it is already a significant milestone in terms of the relations but to augment that is when we try to actually engage and come up with certain agreements that will serve both parties, both countries. And of course if you note during the past visit of Prime Minister Albanese, there were two agreements that were signed – one was relative to work and holiday, that was last year; and the other one was relative to agriculture.

So, do expect it would be—natural to expect that there will be agreements that will be signed relative to other areas of concern of the country.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay. Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ ABS-CBN: Okay. Ambassador Daza. Ma’am si President Marcos will be the first Filipino leader to address the Australia Parliament. For the DFA, how significant do you see this event in terms of further strengthening the partnership between the Philippines and Australia under the President’s leadership?

DFA SEC. DAZA: It is significant because as mentioned already in many of the articles it will be the first time a Philippine president will be speaking before the Parliament of Australia. Other notable leaders who had the opportunity to speak before the Australian Parliament have included and this has also been written about – US President George W. Bush, President Barrack Obama, People’s Republic of China President Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, UK Prime Minister Tony Blaire, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

This is a very good opportunity for the Philippines not only to underscore the shared vision about the future with Australia and this is coming after the two of us elevating our partnership to strategic partnership but will also help us underscore because both countries as maritime nations have actually committed to adherence to the rules-based order of international law.

So it will be very significant, it will be an opportunity for the President to discuss the close and enduring relations between the two countries, but at the same time see how we can actually explore areas to further deepen the relations, Pia.

PIA GUTIERREZ/ ABS-CBN: Another question, ma’am, ano po iyong profile ng Filipino community in Australia?

DFA SEC. DAZA: Very good question. Because the people-to-people linkage is very important when it comes to Australia as already mentioned by some of the newspapers – there are about 408,000 Filipinos in Australia and we constitute about fifth largest immigrant community in the country.

In terms of profile, most of them work as crafts and related trade workers, professional service and sales workers, skilled agriculture, forestry, fishery workers, technicians, associate professionals and managers. So, the one aspect of people-to-people linkages are the presence of our community there but that is just one.

The other aspect is in terms of students in Australia. You all know that Australia has been preferred as the study destination for Filipino students seeking higher education. In 2022, as a report mentioned there are about 17,825 international students in Australia from the Philippines, ranking the top eighth source and accounting for three percent of the total population of international students. So, Australia is currently the third most popular destination for international students in English-speaking world after the US and UK.

So, that’s another aspect but the other aspect in terms of people-to-people linkages is in terms of tourism arrivals and we’ve actually seen an increase in terms of tourism arrivals. In 2023 for example, we had 2,666 thousand plus tourists from Australia who have actually visited the country. And if you will go back in terms of several months, one of the things that was signed during the visit of the prime minister in Manila was the work and holiday visa arrangement which would definitely also facilitate an increase in terms of exchanges and linkages.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay. Ace Romero.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Just a clarification. The weekend visit, it will be a state visit? How would we call that?

DFA SEC. DAZA: It’s actually called the guest of government which can be considered as a state visit because it’s actually upon the invitation of the governor.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Thank you, Ambassador. Just for our information, you mentioned our relationship with Australia has been upgraded from comprehensive to strategic. Just for our information, how would you differentiate the two?

DFA SEC. DAZA: Well, it’s a progression. From comprehensive that means to say you have a lot of areas of cooperation but if you deepen and enhance these different areas of cooperation and if you see that if you have commonalities in terms of interest and vision, then that’s where we’re progressing. And if you look, I think, it would help if you peruse the joint declaration on strategic partnership because it then identifies the key areas where we actually are working at. Like for example in terms of defense cooperation, they’ve actually identified how to concretize the relations and how to deepen it. And if you will also recall in November, one aspect of that was in terms of the conduct of a joint patrol.

The other aspect that can be mentioned is Australia is only the second country with which we have a status of visiting forces agreement. It is also one of the countries with which we have a strategic partnership – of course the US is one because we are treaty allies, but we also have a strategic relationship/partnership with the likes of Japan and Vietnam and now we have another one with Australia.

ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Thank you, Ambassador.

MS. OSEÑA-PAEZ: Okay, thank you. I think this concludes our press briefing. We don’t have enough time right now. We have another press briefing shortly.

Thank you so much for all the information, DFA Spokesperson Ambassador Daza and Assistant Secretary Espiritu. Maraming salamat, Malacañang Press Corps, and see you in a little while.