MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday toured the Royal Australian Navy’s largest ship, which is on a goodwill visit to the Philippines, highlighting the defense ties between the two Pacific neighbors.
The HMAS Adelaide, a landing helicopter dock, is in Manila for a 5-day goodwill visit as part of regional deployment by the Australian Defense Force to strengthen ties with countries in the region. It is accompanied by the smaller HMAS Darwin, a guided missile frigate.
Aboard the ship, Duterte thanked the Australians for “showing solidarity” with the Philippines, especially during times of calamities.
The President was welcomed on board by Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Amanda Gorely and Australia’s Assistant Defense Attaché Gideon Scrimgeour.
“I am pleased to welcome President Duterte to the HMAS Adelaide. Both our countries have a strategic interest in ensuring maritime security and maintaining a stable region,” Gorely said in a statement released by the Australian Embassy in the Philippines.
Captain Jonathan Earley, commander of Joint Task Group Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2017, gave Duterte a tour of the ship.
“The Australian Defense Force values the deep engagement with the Philippines and our continuing engagement on key security priorities,” Earley said.
Earley also highlighted the Adelaide’s humanitarian assistance disaster relief capabilities, which could be of help for the Philippines, among the world's most vulnerable countries visited by strong cyclones yearly.
Addressing Australian sailors aboard the Adelaide, Duterte again underscored the need to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, saying it would only lead to devastation.
“There will always be consequences for all of us. Nuclear bombs can create devastation and create also arid lands [in the] environment,” he said.
After its visit to Manila, the Adelaide will head for Subic, where the ship's crew will continue with their engagement with the Philippine Navy. There, more than 100 Filipino soldiers are set to participate in a sea-ride on Adelaide’s landing craft.
“The exercise will provide a practical opportunity for the two militaries to further enhance interoperability and cooperation, particularly following a natural disaster,” the Australian Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement.
Australia and the Philippines have a long-standing defense cooperation program that deals with counter-terrorism, maritime security and capability development assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.