Philippines’ President Marcos to give rare speech to Australia’s Parliament

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CANBERRA – Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will address a rare joint sitting of Australia’s parliament in a sign of Canberra’s deepening ties with South-east Asian nations at a time of strategic competition in the region.

Mr Marcos will speak to Australian lawmakers in Canberra on Feb 29, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Monday. A joint sitting of both houses of parliament is a rare honour previously only accorded to leaders such as US Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape became the first Pacific leader to address Australia’s parliament last week, highlighting Mr Albanese’s efforts to elevate the significance of relationships across the Indo-Pacific. It also suggests that invitations to speak on the floor of parliament are becoming a tool of diplomacy for Australia’s centre-left government.

“It’s a reminder that our most important relationships are here in our neighbourhood,” Mr Albanese said on Feb 12, adding that Mr Marcos was a “great friend” of Australia. “And the Philippines of course is an important nation for us.”

The Philippines and US navies last week held their third joint patrol in the South China Sea in less than three months, as Mr Marcos tries to assert Manila’s claims in the disputed waters, where Beijing has sweeping ambitions. Australia is seeking out like-minded nations that are trying to hedge against China’s increasing regional clout and the Philippines is a logical prospect.

Mr Albanese became the first sitting Australian prime minister in 20 years to hold a bilateral visit to the Philippines in September 2023. During his trip, the Australian leader signed an agreement with Mr Marcos to elevate their relationship to a strategic partnership.

Mr Marcos is visiting ahead of the Asean-Australia summit due to begin in Melbourne on March 4. Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will also make state visits to Australia around the Asean trip. BLOOMBERG

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