Maritime defense pact with France still non-binding — Lorenzana



MANILA, Philippines — The signed letter of intent for the maritime defense pact between the Philippines and France will be non-binding until the forging of a formal agreement, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

Lorenzana himself signed the letter of intent during his trip last month to France, which was in line with the Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project.

Lorenzana explained that the letter of intent he signed with France was done to pave way for the planning of the actual maritime defense pact between the two countries.

The Philippines, being an archipelagic country, is not only facing serious maritime challenges in the South China Sea but cross-border crime such as human trafficking, piracy, terrorism, smuggling and kidnap-for-ransom activities with the country’s porous sea borders with Malaysia and Indonesia.

To date, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is building up its capabilities in order to address traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges.

The Philippine Navy, for its part, is now eyeing the procurement of additional warships but also submarines in line with its ongoing capability upgrade projects aimed at bolstering the country’s maritime and territorial defense.

France, one of the European countries fully supportive of the US Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS) in the South China Sea, is offering to provide the Philippines with its Scorpène-class submarines.

“According to the Navy, the Scorpene is one of the best submarines,” Lorenzana said.

Aside from France, Russia is also offering to sell to the Philippine Navy its Kilo-class