• Australia pledges $40M for peace in Mindanao

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    Malacañang on Friday said the Australian government had committed to continue its development assistance to the Philippines, saying that $40 million in fresh aid would be specifically focused on projects for Mindanao.

    This came after Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City, where they talked about the Mindanao peace process, terrorism, and responsible mining.

    In a statement, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte and Bishop, during their “warm and cordial” meeting, expressed willingness to cooperate against terrorism, a security threat to both the Philippines and Australia.

    “Both underscored that terrorism and violent extremism are serious threats, with both expressing readiness to identify areas of collaboration,” Abella said.

    The Islamic State (IS) has called on its fighters to conduct attacks in Australia and the Philippines. In Mindanao, some terror groups have pledged allegiance to the IS.

    To help bring about peace in Mindanao, Abella said Australia pledged $40 million over six years. “These are to go to affected areas in projects such as improved water facilities,” he said.

    Abella said Duterte and Bishop also agreed on the importance of securing freedom of navigation and safety at sea.

    Mining standards

    Duterte, who frequently cites Australian mining standards as ideal for Philippine miners to follow, also brought up the topic of responsible mining.

    “[Duterte] expressed the Philippines’ interest in learning responsible mining from Australia, citing that country’s experience and expertise,” Abella said.

    Bishop responded by saying that the Australian government was “willing to cooperate in building capacities for responsibility in mineral and energy resources,” he said.

    Abella said Bishop also expressed Australia’s support for the Philippines’ Asean chairmanship and the country’s efforts to further strengthen the regional bloc.

    Bishop also met acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, and the two said they looked forward to convening the 5th Philippines-Australia Ministerial Meeting possibly in December 2017, and other bilateral mechanisms.

    Both acknowledged the long-standing relations between the two countries, which reached 70 years in 2016.
    Manalo said the visit of Bishop “is an affirmation of Australia’s strong commitment to the Philippines as a comprehensive partner.”

    Over 200,000 Filipinos live and work in various professional fields in Australia.

    WITH JAIME R. PILAPIL

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