Manila, Philippines – The Filipino and Australian naval forces darted across the sea and landed on a Philippine wharf in a disaster-response drill Sunday that reflects their deepening security ties in a region prone to calamities, piracy and territorial rifts.
Lt. Col. Daniel Turner of the Australian Defence Force said the naval maneuvers in Subic Bay, northwest of Manila, will strengthen the two countries’ ability to jointly respond to typhoons and other disasters when roads, bridges and ports are damaged or destroyed.
The drills reflect the strengthening security relations between the two U.S. allies despite Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s often antagonistic stance toward American security policy. Australia and the United States have deployed surveillance aircraft to help Filipino troops quell a disastrous siege by pro-Islamic State group militants in southern Marawi city.
During the maneuvers, more than 100 Philippine marines and Australian naval personnel took off from an Australian navy ship, the HMAS Adelaide, on board troop carriers then rushed to a port at Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base. Two Associated Press journalists were allowed to witness the exercises from a helicopter.