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Philippines country brief

Bilateral relations

The Australia-Philippines relationship is a longstanding friendship built on mutual trust and cooperation. Since 1946, Australia and the Philippines have worked together to ensure a close partnership grounded in a commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in our region. Our cooperation is deep and mature, covering defence, security and development, and growing trade and investment, all supported by strong people-to-people ties.

On 8 September 2023, Australia and the Philippines elevated our relationship to a Strategic Partnership.

Trade and investment

The Philippines is an important trade and investment partner for Australia, with the Philippine economy growing at an average of six per cent per year – one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. In 2022, Australia's two-way trade with the Philippines was $8.2 billion – our 17th largest trading partner. Australia's proximity to the Philippines and its reputation as a supplier of quality materials and services are important factors enhancing the bilateral trade, economic, and investment relationship with a market of 113 million people.

There are now more than 250 major Australian companies that operate in the Philippines. These Australian companies employ more than 41,000 Filipinos in the business process outsourcing, infrastructure, banking, telecommunications, energy, and education sectors. Numerous additional Australian-owned micro, small and medium sized enterprises in the hospitality, food retail and recreation sectors employ thousands of Filipinos as well.

Our existing trade agreements with the Philippines, the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), has reduced a wide range of tariffs on trade between Australia and the Philippines. On 21 August 2023, relevant ASEAN parties, including the Philippines, upgraded AANZFTA for the second time, ensuring the agreement can continue to deliver benefits for modern businesses, workers and consumers in our region. The Philippines ratified the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which entered into force for the Philippines on 2 June 2023. Both Australia and the Philippines are founding and active members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Australia and the Philippines are also active members of the Cairns Group, a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries.

Defence and security

Australia's defence and security partnership with the Philippines is robust, and our ties date back to 1922. Our ongoing engagement and collaboration span major global and regional events – including the Second World War, where the Australian military contributed to the liberation of the Philippines. Our shared history of cooperation in defence and security has culminated in a focus on stability, maritime security, counter-terrorism and cooperation on threats to regional security.

Cooperation between Australia and the Philippines on strategic and security matters is underpinned by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperative Defence Activities (1995) and to Combat International Terrorism (2003), and the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) (2012).

Australia has significant interest in building the capacity of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a force that can manage its own security, deter coercion, and address the threat of terrorism. The Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program established in 2019 sets the Philippines-Australia defence relationship on a long-term trajectory for closer engagement, with a focus on military professionalism, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and maritime security.

Development cooperation

Australia's overseas development program in the Philippines – underpinned by more than 50 years of development cooperation – is an important element of our bilateral relationship.

Our development cooperation has a focus on education, peace and security, and disaster and climate resilience, with a strong gender element to all programs. In 2023-24 total overseas development assistance to the Philippines is estimated at $89.9 million.

People connections

Australia and the Philippines have strong people links through trade and investment, cultural exchange, education, tourism and migration. Over 400,000 Australians have Filipino heritage, the fourth largest diaspora community.

Education engagement between Australia and the Philippines has grown significantly in recent years. In 2022, 17,976 Filipino students studied in Australia, the eighth largest international student cohort.

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