MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is eyeing another agreement with France to strengthen maritime defense cooperation.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and French Defense Minister Florence Parly recently signed the Letter of Intent on Enhancing Defense Cooperation in the Maritime Domain in Paris.
“Secretary Lorenzana’s visit to France culminated in the increased level of interaction between the defense ministries of the Philippines and France in 2019 and acknowledged the vast potential of this field of cooperation between the two countries,” the statement read.
In September, the Philippines and France convened their second joint defense consultative committee meeting.
The two top defense officials also previously signed a technical arrangement on defense equipment cooperation between the two countries.
Under the Aquino administration in May 2016, the Philippines and France inked a defense cooperation arrangement that sought to focus on cooperation on high-level dialogues and defense policy consultations.
France earlier declared it would continue to sail in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea.
During the 2019 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June, Parly said her country would address the maritime dispute with its own “steady, non-confrontational but obstinate way.”
“There will be objections, there will be dubious manoeuvres at sea, but we will not be intimidated into accepting any fait accompli, because what international law condemns, how could we condone?” Parly said.
Paris was among the first European nations to stand up to Beiijing’s aggression in the region.
In June 2018, a Chinese warship reportedly challenged a French military vessel passing through the Spratly Islands.
Hudson Institute senior fellow Jonas Parello-Plesner, in an article published in The Wall Street Journal, pointed out that France has been conducitng freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea since 2014.