By Roy Mabasa
The French government has a lot to propose to the Philippines when it comes to ensuring the needs of the country’s navy are met.
This was pointed out by French Ambassador to Manila Nicolas Galey in an interview onboard the Vendemiaire, a Floreal class French surveillance frigate on a goodwill visit to the Philippines from March 12 to 16.
“A country like the Philippines with so many islands and so many waters to control and preserve needs a navy or ships, in this field we have a lot to propose to the Philippines,” Ambassador Galey said.
Quickly stressing that France does not sell defense equipment, the top French diplomat in the country noted that what they are offering will give the country the capabilities to “build its own at the second stage.”
“We will propose…the training, maintenance, construction,” he said. “It’s a very specific approach that we have and that was successful in many parts of the world, including in Southeast Asia.”
Right now, however, relationship between the Philippines and France with regard to defense cooperation is still starting, he emphasized.
“Obviously things has to be set up progressively,” said Galey. “Maybe it would reach that point but we are just very much starting this cooperation.”
“But the spirit is here, the will is here and we have a lot to share with the Philippines. We have a good, excellent atmosphere,” he added. “All the ingredients are here to make a good cooperation.”
According to Galey, French ships visit Manila at least once a year.
Vendemiaire in particular has two bases, one in New Caledonia off Australia and Tahiti and the French Polynesia.
With modern equipment like electronics and satellites, the ship has a very effective control and surveillance of the said areas.
Since UNCLOS, Galey said these economic zones is a zone that France can control, defend and preserve not only for fishing rights but also for protecting the environment.
“Just like in the Philippines the environment should be protected, the corals,” he said.
Galey emphasized that French ships participate in preserving the sea from people who are stealing corals and fishermen using dynamite fishing.
“These are all part of the mission of the ship,” he said.
The other role is to exert the right expressed in UNCLOS related to the freedom of navigation.
“We all know that in this part of the world, or in other parts of the world, there are some areas in which this FON has to be exerted very practically to express that this is the place where international law is applicable,” said Galey. “French navy ships go to these areas just to sail legally in the waters.”
“It is important for us here and because it is important for us all over the world. FON is a global rule,” he added. “It’s true in the Pacific, it’s true in Southeast Asia, it’s true in the Atlantic, it’s true in the Mediterranean and it has to be defended anywhere, the same way, very calmly with no aggressiveness. Nothing against anyone but just to show that FON is an important concept for us.”