Interesting report on why Australia is lending a hand to the Philippines in improving security of trade routes here:
Australia has set a high priority on expanding trade and investment ties with China, potentially the world's biggest market for Australian natural resources and farm products. Australia's drive to sell more to China took a big step forward this week when Prime Minister John Howard flew from talks in Batam on Monday (26 June) with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a meeting in Shenzhen with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.Earlier post on Australia sea lanes here
They attended a ceremony to mark the opening of a liquefied natural gas terminal in the industrial hub of southern China that will receive LNG from Australia worth about A$25 billion over the next 25 years.
Given the value of this new energy supply route to China and its vulnerability to possible terrorist attack, Australia has been quietly helping the Philippines improve its sea surveillance and its ability to respond to threats against ships and seaborne trade.
A number of recent developments have evidently prompted Canberra to pay much closer attention to the possibility of an attack launched by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in the southern Philippines against ships carrying billions of dollars of Australian exports to Asia and the U.S. -- particularly giant tankers laden with LNG going to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and soon to the west coast of North America as well as China.
Because it is an island-continent separated by the sea from its main markets, Australia is, by some counts, the fifth biggest user of shipping in the world. Almost all Australia's overseas trade by bulk and some 72 percent by value are carried in ships. A large majority of exports of Australian goods to six of its top 10 markets -- Japan, China, the U.S., South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong -- are carried north in tankers, bulk carriers and other vessels through two deepwater passages in Indonesia: The Lombok Strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok, and the Makassar Strait between the islands of Borneo and Sulawesi.
Then, depending on their destination, size and weight, the ships either branch right through the Celebes Sea south of Mindanao, the main island in the southern Philippines, out into the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean; or they branch left, skirting the Sulu archipelago and Palawan Island in the Philippines to reach the South China Sea.
(Second map from Straits, Passages and Chokepoints: A Maritime Petroleum Distribution by Jean-Paul Rodrigue)