France, Phl ink defense cooperation pact

Jaime Laude - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Amid maritime tension in the Spratlys island chain, the Philippines continues to strengthen its defense alliances with friendly states.

Last Wednesday the government forged a defense agreement with France.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and French Ambassador Thierry Mathou inked the defense cooperation arrangement, which both countries had been working on since 2014.

“Our relationship would be further enhanced as we institutionalize our cooperation through this agreement,” Gazmin said during the signing ceremony held at the defense department at Camp Aguinaldo.

Gazmin said both countries could start working on the implementation of the deal.

Under the arrangement, both countries agreed to focus their cooperation on high-level dialogues and defense policy consultations, visits of defense and armed forces authorities, education and training exchanges, and cooperation in defense equipment, logistics and defense industry.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is deemed to be one of the weakest in the region. Manila has been on a diplomatic offensive to boost security alliances and its defense capability.

It is also enlisting the support of other countries for Manila’s maritime arbitration case against China. The case questioned the legality of Beijing’s nine-dash line territorial and maritime claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

“The conclusion of the Philippines-France Defense Arrangement is very timely given the increasing defense and security challenges both countries are confronted with. The cooperation provided for in the agreement could enhance the two countries’ defense capacities and capabilities essential in addressing such challenges,” defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

Aside from its key ally the United States, the Philippines also has standing defense cooperation agreements with Japan, Australia and several Asian countries.

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