France and the Philippines are exploring the possibility of establishing a defense pact, allowing reciprocal military deployments for joint exercises. Philippine Defense Chief Gilberto Teodoro Jr, in a joint press conference with French Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, stated their intention to seek authorization from their respective heads of state to initiate negotiations, as reported by AP.
Teodoro emphasized the aim of enhancing defense cooperation and interoperability between the armed forces, focusing on joint naval and air exercises. The Philippines currently has similar agreements only with the United States and Australia, while negotiations with Japan for a reciprocal access agreement are ongoing.
Both defense chiefs expressed the commitment to deepen cooperation by increasing intelligence and information exchanges to address security threats. They also agreed to maintain regular ship visits and underscored the importance of upholding international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The move aligns with France's active involvement in the South China Sea, where it has deployed navy ships to counter Chinese expansionism and promote freedom of navigation. This mirrors the concerns shared by the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia over China's aggressive actions in the disputed region.
The announcement comes amid joint air and naval patrols by the Philippines with the US and Australia in the South China Sea. The Philippines, led by National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, stated the intention to continue these joint patrols and potentially expand them to include other friendly nations like Japan.
Ano, speaking from Thitu Island in the South China Sea, inaugurated a new coast guard monitoring station equipped with radar, satellite communications, coastal cameras, and ship-tracking equipment. The move is aimed at countering what he described as China's "pure bullying."