France vows to lend a hand in PH’s quest for submarine force development

(L-R) Ambassador-designate of France to the Philippines Marie Fontanel-Lassalle and Department of National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (Photo courtesy of DND)

France offered to help develop the Philippines’ submarine force to bolster the latter's maritime capabilities, the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

This was revealed during the courtesy call of Ambassador-designate of France to the Philippines Marie Fontanel-Lassalle on DND Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City last week as they looked forward to continue improving the two countries’ bilateral relations.

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

The DND is set to review the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to determine which assets and equipment should be prioritized. 

The modernization program is now on the third and final horizon, and the DND is set to acquire sophisticated assets such as multi-role fighter aircraft, radars, frigates, missile systems and rescue helicopters.

However, earlier this month, AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said that the military should also acquire big-ticket naval assets such as a submarine to help the country build a credible defense posture in light of the territorial and maritime issues in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Teodoro and Fontanel also discussed the recent joint patrol of the Philippine Navy with the United States Navy in WPS as talks about the possible inclusion of France in such operations were raised.

Meanwhile, Teodoro and Fontanel welcomed the shared commitment of the Philippines and France to the rules-based international order and adherence to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) amid the challenges posed by China’s aggression in WPS.

Teodoro suggested that France should converge with other like-minded states in upholding freedom of navigation and addressing maritime challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

Teodoro underscored the importance of enhancing defense ties with other countries around the globe, noting that it “strengthens complementary relationships” on trade, investment, and commerce.

Classified intel

Teodoro also met with Admiral John C. Aquilino, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), to discuss the outcomes of the annual Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB).

The MDB-SEB is an annual gathering with the view of discussing military-to-military as well as security engagements between the two armed forces.

Teodoro and Aquilino were already finalizing the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a framework of cooperation between the Philippines and the US that aims to protect classified military information.