PHL, France double-down on regional stability, defense, security strategies

IN celebration of France and the Philippines’s diplomatic relations, defense experts from both countries discussed their evolving linkages toward stability in the region.

Manila-based think-tank Stratbase ADR Institute, under the sponsorship of the French Embassy, hosted on September 14 the “Revolutionizing the Philippine Defense Posture with France in the Indo-Pacific.”

Ambassador Michèle Boccoz emphasized that the two countries “share a common commitment to defend international law and multilateralism in the Indo-Pacific. This…is marked by a growing cooperation in defense and security, as well as in the fight against climate change.”

Both republics are exploring the possibility of holding coordinated patrols in their exclusive economic zones and expanding the cooperation between both forces.

Boccoz said her country also wants to have an active role in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

In May this year, France offered to help train, build and maintain the AFP’s first-ever submarine force. Officials of the Philippine Navy earlier pointed out that they are interested in having a submarine force to beef up its naval capabilities.

Amid growing threat of foreign aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the Indo-Pacific, Stratbase pointed out that it will be prudent and strategic for the Philippines to link up with France in the areas of defense and security.

Professor Victor Andres Manhit of Stratbase believes that France, as one of the major superpowers in the world, will be vital in establishing stability in the Indo-Pacific by expanding its role and providing solutions to regional challenges.

“France has redirected its diplomatic initiatives and policies to promote a multipolar order founded on the rule of law and multilateralism,” Manhit said. “It envisions a region wherein states advance shared democratic values, and governments abide by international law—particularly, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [or UNCLOS].”

Manhit pointed out that the two countries increasingly share concerns of similar nature due to the consequences of strategic shifts in the region: “[Continued] engagement with France in the defense and security sectors will enable us to build a credible defense posture in the WPS.”

Under the AFP modernization program “Horizon,” the current administration has started procuring new military capabilities—including multirole fighter planes, offshore patrol vessels, corvettes, light tanks, and land-based missile systems.

In the last phase of the program (Horizon 3 2023-2028), the AFP is looking to heighten its proficiency in preventing and addressing external threats. In such a perspective, the Philippines is planning to acquire its very first submarine.

With an expertise and know-how based on years of experience, France—its embassy shared—has demonstrated its ability to fully support a partner-nation in creating and autonomously operating submarines.