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Australia, Philippines to bolster military drills

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MANILA (AP): The Philippine defence chief says his Australian counterpart plans to visit early next year to discuss ways to bolster security cooperation and the entry of Australian forces for military exercises under a new pact.

The Philippine Senate in July ratified an accord that would allow Australian troops to train in combat exercises with Filipino forces in the country. It was a long-delayed pact that got backing from lawmakers alarmed by Manila's recent territorial spats with Beijing.

Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Sunday that he and Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith would discuss how to enhance joint exercises, including those that would help their forces better deal with natural disasters, terrorism and other threats.

Washington is the only other country with a similar visiting forces agreement with the Philippines.

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