EXCLUSIVE: France ready to work with PH vs regional security threats, ‘concerned’ over West PH Sea situation – new envoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — The new French envoy to Manila disclosed on Tuesday that France is closely following the recent developments in the West Philippine Sea and expressed readiness to stand with the Philippines in facing regional security threats.

In her first and exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, Ambassador Marie Fontanel also provided details on what transpired during the recent phone conversation between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and French President Emmanuel Macron.

“It is to enhance our bilateral cooperation," said Fontanel. "President Macron called President Marcos to share concern on the West Philippine Sea."

“We are part of the Pacific family and it’s natural that we are concerned with the situation. We share a lot of concerns and visions of international order with the Philippines,” the envoy added.

The conversation between Marcos and Macron took place shortly after the Philippine Coast Guard raised the alarm on the floating barrier installed by the China Coast Guard in the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) to prevent Filipinos from entering the shoal.

China denied the claim and argued that it was implementing necessary measures to protect its territory.

The French envoy declared that the European nation remain committed to help the Philippines uphold a rules-based order in the region.

“That is why we stand with the Philippines when your country faces external threats," Fontanel said.

"We have seen an increasing or rise of tensions in the region and once again our concern is that we think we need a free and peaceful Indo-Pacific region," she added.

France is currently participating in the 'SAMASAMA' naval exercises with the Philippines, the United States, and other like-minded countries.

Fontanel said this is one way of sending a message of unity in the face of challenges.

"Multilateralism is the answer," she noted. "It’s a message of unity, solidarity, but also a message of prevention, and we do share the same concerns together."

France said talks about enhancing defense cooperation with the Philippines, including potential joint maritime activities, are in progress.

A proposal for a submarine program was also given to Philippine authorities by the French naval corps.

"We are a maritime nation, and we have expertise and knowledge in this regard," Fontanel said.

"We really do think we can help the Philippines in building a submarine force as we have done in other countries in the region," she added.