Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Montealegre (right photo, center) and Australian DFAT First Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia Heckscher (left photo) in animated discussions during the Foreign Ministry Consultations (FMC) via video teleconference (VTC) on 04 August 2020.
PASAY CITY 05 August 2020 – The Philippines and Australia held their inaugural Foreign Ministry Consultations (FMC) via video teleconference (VTC) on 04 August 2020, to take stock of relations and support the direction of future engagement.
The FMC were co-chaired by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Meynardo LB. Montealegre with Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) First Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia Julie Heckscher.
The FMC, first conceptualized in 2019 and until the global COVID-19 outbreak due to be hosted by Australia, was established to serve as chief mechanism to review and support progress, both high- and working-level, on key initiatives spanning the entire gamut of relations. It also serves as a platform for exchanging perspectives on regional developments of mutual import.
The first FMC is also seen as jumpstarting substantive preparations for the 75th anniversary of Philippines-Australia diplomatic relations in 2021.
“That we are convening this first FMC amid and in spite of COVID-19 attests not only to the resilience but also to the vigor and even the tenacity of our relations. It mirrors our resolve to strengthen the foundations of our dynamic and wide-ranging relations, and adapt its expression in our cooperation, as we approach the diamond jubilee of our ties in 2021,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Montealegre said.
Both sides renewed their commitment to strengthening political exchanges and dialogues, defense and security cooperation including in advocating rule of law and adherence to international law and especially the UNCLOS in the maritime sphere, as well as building on nascent collaboration in countering terrorism and transnational crimes.
Development cooperation also figured prominently in the talks. The Philippines appreciated Australia’s strong support for Mindanao as well as in the fields of education and training.
The two sides also took the opportunity to affirm mutual support and solidarity amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and exchanged messages of appreciation for the assistance rendered by each other’s governments to the repatriation of Filipino and Australian nationals. Both underscored the heightened importance of health cooperation in insulating and adapting overall practical cooperation from future public health threats. END