The Philippines is considering strengthening its defense capabilities in the West Philippine Sea through a new defense agreement with France, following a meeting between Philippine Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu in Manila on Saturday (Dec. 2). The agreement will allow soldiers from both countries to enter each other's territory.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to increase interaction between the armed forces of the Philippines and France. Teodoro said that with the signing of the MOU, the next step is to seek the approval of the President to begin the next stages of negotiations.
Both countries pledged to strengthen practical cooperation through launching discussions on defense treaties, exploring visitation treaties, enhancing defense and military activities including capability development and joint defense industry cooperation, and intelligence and information sharing to address security threats. They reaffirmed their commitment to building long-term partnerships in the maritime, land, air, and information domains.
The agreement also provides an opportunity to conduct joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) region, where the Philippines has taken decisive action to assert its maritime territorial claims against China. They also emphasized their mutual support for a free, open, inclusive, and stable Indo-Pacific. They also expressed their adherence to the 1982 UNCLOS and the 2016 UN Arbitral Award on the South China Sea to issues in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
The Philippines has similar agreements with the United States and Australia and is currently in talks with Japan to reach a reciprocal access agreement. The Philippines' efforts to increase military cooperation with several countries are a response to rising tensions with China in the South China Sea. The two countries have a long-standing maritime dispute in the region.
The Philippines' territorial claims were bolstered by a 2016 international court ruling that rejected China's claims to most of the South China Sea, where several other countries also have territorial claims.