France is willing to hold joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, the French Ambassador to Manila disclosed.
Ambassador Marie Fontanel made the disclosure after Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said more countries were eyeing joint air and sea patrols with the Philippines over the disputed territory.
Fontanel said they were willing to bolster cooperation with “like-minded” partners in the Indo-Pacific in keeping with its vision to reinforce its role in the region.
“So far, under my comprehension, we were ready to (do so). So, it might not really be us that would need the framework,” she told reporters in a presser at her residence in Makati City.
“We have always been told by the Philippines that the Philippines would need under your Constitution the agreement,” she added.
France and the Philippines look forward to the forging of a bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that would provide a legal framework for exchanges of military units and possible joint military exercises.
“The possibility of joint patrols would come after the discussion on visiting forces agreement, that is, as I said, was a pre-requisite or requirement before we could organize that,” Fontanel said.
The envoy clarified that France’s push to increase presence in the region is pursuant to its Indo-Pacific Strategy seeking to promote a rules-based order in the region.
She added that France is also concerned over the developments in the West Philippines Sea.
“It’s no doubt that for France and also for Europe to have an eye on what’s going on here is a given. For many reasons, but, of course, because of what’s going on in the region, and particularly the West Philippine Sea, we are concerned,” she said.