Australian military troops are eyeing to participate in the Philippines' annual "Balikatan" or "shoulder-to-shoulder" training exercises with the U.S. forces, the former's Department of National Defense (DND) announced over the weekend.
In a statement, DND spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said that Australia wants to send its troops to the yearly military exercises more as an observer, and that this was discussed during the 11th Joint Defense Cooperation Committee meeting held from Oct. 24 to 25 in Manila.
"Explored in the meeting were Australian troops taking part in Philippine-US Balikatan exercises and Philippine forces joining the Australian Kakadu and Pitch Black Exercises," a statement from the DND read.
The Kakadu maritime exercises involve Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan, while the Pitch Black air combat exercises are conducted by Australia, along with Thailand, Singapore and New Zealand.
If discussions prove successful, a trilateral exercise agreement would need to be formally signed among the Philippines, the U.S. and Australia for the Balikatan.
"The Philippines and Australia expressed commitment to further enhance bilateral defense relations, with both sides looking forward to a more comprehensive, dynamic, and strengthened defense cooperation," the DND statement said.