France, Germany ready for maritime cooperation with PH; joint maritime patrols in West PH Sea an 'option'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 27) - The French and German governments have expressed their readiness to cooperate with the Philippines to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the celebration of the Élysée Treaty on Friday, French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz and German Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel reiterated their countries' commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

"We have decided to launch Franco-German exercises, including trilateral exercises, involving the armed forces of our partners in the region in order to illustrate our willingness and ability to support the rule of law in the region," said Boccoz.

France added that it is also willing to hold joint patrols with the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

"We would be ready to do joint patrols together, so that's something we are considering and we would allow more deployment of our French Navy in this area and there are ongoing discussions at that level," she added.

For her part, Reiffenstuel said cooperation on maritime security has been existing between the Philippines and Germany in various forms.

"Germany has started supporting the Philippine Coast Guard when it comes to maritime security, when surveying maritime space, and to protect its territory and biodiversity," said Reiffenstuel.

"Security is very comprehensive and it's more than just patrols and cooperation," she added.

Last year, France expressed willingness to help the Philippines build its submarine force as part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

France also offered to share its expertise in the area of aviation, which would help the defense posture of the Philippines.

"Training, exchange of information, our joint interest is more on the stability in the region. It's very strategic around here in the Philippines," explained Boccoz.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said the possibility of conducting joint maritime patrols involving the Philippines and the US in the West Philippine Sea is now being discussed.

"We are looking at all possibilities in terms of enhancing our capabilities. Joint patrols is like the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), we have joint exercises. Joint patrols will be part of that agreement with the US. We will let you know when the patrols will take place, but it's on the table," he added.

"Pinag-uusapan at malalim ang pinag-uusapan [We are seriously talking about it]," Romualdez said.