“France is actively working with the Philippines and other countries to strengthen maritime security by exploring prospects of defense partnerships that may lead to joint patrols to protect exclusive economic zones of respective jurisdictions”
Vive la France et vive les Philippines!
An apropos cheer as France and the Philippines celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations with a series of commemorative events that highlight what French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz has described in a recent public statement as a long relationship “united by common values.”
The historical legacy of Franco-Philippine connections can be traced back to 1819 or 128 years before the Treaty of Amity was signed in Paris in 1947.
In fact, in the French city of Biarritz, our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal finished his novel “El Filibusterismo,” the second of two literary masterpieces that inspired the Philippine Revolution in an era when the liberal and democratic values of Europe were stirring the revolutionary fervor for a national identity and independence from oppressive colonizers.
Today, ongoing cooperation with France continues to expand in cultural and economic exchange, agriculture, science and technology, higher education, film, and tourism.
In times of calamities, the French Development Agency is supporting the Credit Facility Agreement (CFA) with EUR 250 million financing for the Disaster Risk Reduction Enhancement at the Local Level Program, a program for the devolution of disaster risk reduction and management and climate action mandate to LGUs.
Beyond many areas of partnerships, France has become a stabilizing force in the evolving geopolitical dynamics of the region with the adoption of an Indo-Pacific Strategy in May 2018.
In her published article, Ambassador Boccoz states, “As nations of the Indo-Pacific, France and the Philippines share a common commitment to defend international law and multilateralism in the Indo-Pacific.
“This commitment is marked by a growing cooperation in defense and security, as well as in the fight against climate change.”
During the 6th anniversary of the Philippine victory in the Arbitral Ruling on the West Philippine Sea, France declared its commitment to the rules-based international order in accordance with international law or the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), highlighting the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in an Indo-Pacific that is open and inclusive.
France is actively working with the Philippines and other countries to strengthen maritime security by exploring prospects of defense partnerships that may lead to the conduct of joint patrols to protect exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of respective jurisdictions.
The scope of cooperation will extend to disaster and humanitarian aid with long term timelines.
Being an archipelagic nation, defending Philippine maritime territories is now a top priority after continuing incursions have threatened the lives and livelihood of Filipino fishermen and as the extensive damage to precious marine resources crucial to national food supply rampantly persists.
There is urgency to modernize the defense capability of the Philippine armed forces in particular, the Philippine Navy’s fleet.
In support of the Philippine’s modernization of its armed forces, France is open to the possibility of joint patrols to secure EEZs and to provide the assets and supplies to build a Philippine submarine force which has been sort of an elusive dream since the 1950s and remains unrealized due to inadequate budget.
There is now hope that there will finally be funding to acquire the country’s first submarine as part of the Horizon 3 phase of the AFP modernization program.
A submarine force patrolling our maritime territories will be a game-changing development that will greatly boost the security of our porous water borders not just from any military, terrorist, and illicit trade sorties but the strategically critical protection and preservation of our blue economic assets.
This dimension of French-Philippine bilateral relations will be the agenda during the international symposium with the theme “Revolutionizing the Philippine Defense Posture with France in the Indo-Pacific” on September 14 and hosted by the Stratbase Group under the patronage of the French Embassy in Manila.
Strategic initiatives in the context of the French Indo-Pacific Strategy and Philippine-French Defense Partnership with updated analyses of potential geopolitical flashpoints are among the program topics of the event.
Among the esteemed speakers that will grace the event are: Ambassador Michèle Boccoz; Foreign Secretary Enrique A. Manalo; Dr. Eric Frécon, Adjunct fellow of the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, Bangkok and the Institute for Strategic Research of the French Naval Academy; Brig. Gen. Caroline Salahun, Asia-Pacific Director, (French) Directorate General of Armaments.
The uncertainties consequent to the global pandemic crisis aggravated by the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine and the emerging geopolitical challenges in the Indo-Pacific calls for a renewed commitment to democratic values and the rule of law that have been the bedrock of stability that braces the engines of economic development.
This is a shared concern that the Philippines must and can address in partnership with France.