By Priam Nepomuceno

HELPING AFP MODERNIZATION. French Ambassador-designate Marie Fontanel-Lassalle (left) pays an introductory call to Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. on Sept. 14, 2023. The DND on Wednesday (Sept. 20) said the two officials tackled other areas of cooperation aside from the AFP modernization program and the Philippines’ development of a submarine force. (Photo courtesy of the DND)

MANILA – France has reiterated its support to the ongoing Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (AFPMP) including the development of the country’s submarine force, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Wednesday.

This came following French Ambassador-designate Marie Fontanel-Lassalle’s introductory call to DND Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr. on Sept. 14.

“Emphasizing France’s role as a partner in the Indo-Pacific region, Ambassador-designate Fontanel reiterated France’s offer to support the AFPMP, including (French defense manufacturer) Naval Group’s readiness to assist in building a Philippine submarine force,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Andolong was referring to the Naval Group’s commitment to help the Philippine Navy (PN) develop Subic Bay in Zambales into a modern base capable of handling submarine operations should it win the contract for the construction and delivery of the warship capable of submersible operations.

The PN has earlier announced that Subic Bay will be the location of its submarine base.

This includes proposals for docks capable of handling more than two submarines and surface ships needed to support the growth of the force, operation zones for the squadron’s command center, maintenance yards and logistics depots, and the Philippine Submarine Force Training Center that includes classrooms and simulators.

Naval Group is also the manufacturer of the Scorpene diesel-electric submarine which is included on the list of preferred submarine platforms of the country and was evaluated by Filipino naval and defense officials in 2019.

Under the AFPMP, the country is planning to acquire two to three submarines.

France earlier expressed its interest to participate in the ongoing AFPMP, especially on Horizon 3 which is geared towards the acquisition of equipment for external defense.

Horizon 3 is slated for 2023 up to 2028 while Horizon 2 is from 2018 to 2022 and Horizon 1 from 2013 to 2017.

The DND official also said the French Ambassador-designate is looking forward to the continued improvement of the two countries’ relations following the recent opening of the French Embassy’s Defense Mission.(PNA)