ZAMBOANGA CITY -- A joint maritime security exercise was launched on Monday between the Royal Australian Navy and Naval Forces Western Mindanao of the Philippine Navy to address the threat of terrorism in Southeast Asia.
Two Armidale-class patrol boats of the Royal Australian Navy arrived at Zamboanga port early Monday morning.
Her Majesty Australian Ship (HMAS) Broome and Launceston were sent to Mindanao for maritime security exercises with Philippine Navy frigates.
The exercises seek to improve regional maritime security, which has been tainted by several kidnapping and hijacking incidents targeting foreign and local cargo vessels.
Mat Kimberley, Australia's deputy head of mission to the Philippines, said both countries have benefited from extensive defense cooperation, such as technical support and intelligence sharing, between their military forces.
He said this cooperation helps address the threat posed by ISIS, as well as their local sympathizers and supporters in this region.
A few weeks after the Marawi siege ended in October, the Australian government sent a number of their soldiers to help train Filipino soldiers in urban warfare and other strategies.
Mobile training teams have been operating in key areas of Luzon and Visayas, Kimberley said.
Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the joint maritime security engagement with the Royal Australian Navy would further enhance their inter-operability and defense cooperation.
He said these can help thwart terror attacks in key areas of the Philippines, as well as in neighboring countries.
The ISIS had sought to establish a regional caliphate in the southern city of Marawi, which sparked 5-month-long hostilities. Key leaders of local terror groups as well as some foreign terrorists were killed during the Marawi siege.
“I am certain that both our navies share a common concern in ensuring safer seas for our seafarers and the local community as well. ...We are proud to say that the Naval Forces Western Mindanao has recorded zero kidnapping at sea for more than a year. There were attempts but through our efforts, in cooperation with other agencies, they were also prevented,” Medina said.
The 15-day maritime security exercise started Monday, with ranking Navy officials welcoming Australian delegates in the Zamboanga port area.
Filipino soldiers and other guests had a quick tour inside the two Australian patrol boats, which were commissioned in 2007.
These patrol boats are equipped with high-definition navigational radar, ultra-high frequency communications equipment, gyro compasses and echo sounder.