By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA – France is ready to hold joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea, its top diplomat in Manila said Wednesday, reaffirming Paris’ bid to reinforce its role as a “like-minded” partner in the Indo-Pacific.
French Ambassador to the Philippines Marie Fontanel made the statement after Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said more states are seeking to hold air and sea patrols with the Philippines.
“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, referring to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two states.
France and the Philippines are waiting for President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and French President Emmanuel Macron to green-light the negotiations on a VFA, which would provide a legal framework for the presence of one country’s forces in the other.
“The possibility of joint patrol 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 under the ambit of its Indo-Pacific Strategy that seeks 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. (PNA)