French Navy warship visit in PH seeks to promote maritime security

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — A French Navy frigate "goodwill visit" in the country highlights France's call to maintain freedom of navigation in sea lanes, as outlined in international agreements.

"Our attachment to the rules-based order for example, regarding the use of the United Nations Convention for the law of navigation. This is the most important for us," said Rear Admiral Denis Bertrand of the French Navy Ship (FNS) Vendermiaire.

The 307-foot light patrol warship docked at the Manila South Harbor on Monday morning.

Bertrand, who heads the French forces in the Pacific, said France intends to sustain its strategic autonomy and "ability to cooperate with friends."

"France is the only European Union nation that has permanent forces settled here in the Pacific Ocean. We are probably the only EU nation that sends every year first rank-level units, such as destroyers, amphibious units and so on, in this region," Bertrand said.

French envoy to the Philippines Nicolas Galey said the Philippines and France held "joint cooperation talks" last week, to enhance bilateral security coordination on prevailing security threats in the region.

Among these security challenges include fighting terrorism and drug smuggling, as well as addressing the impact of climate change. 

The French Navy is the third foreign naval force to make a port call in the Philippines since January.

Japan and the U.S. have also made routine deployments of their warships in Manila.

Related: U.S. nuclear-powered warship visits PH

"What it shows in my view, it is very important for these three nations, which are obviously important nations in the Pacific in the world, to show their presence in the Philippines," Galey said.

"And it shows also that Manila is a very important stop," he added.

The Philippine Navy accorded the Vendermiaire with traditional honors, including the customary practice of escorting the visiting warship from the vicinity of Corregidor Island.

"This is a very personal (visit) and (it's) great to be back in Manila, one of my first port visit when i was a cadet, a midship man in 1988," Betrand shared.

The visit of Verdermiaire, he added, "is an example of our willingness to be here side by side, with our friends of the region of the Pacific, with the view to enhance our relationship and cooperation."

The Philippine Navy said the visit will include "confidence-building engagements" along with the French Navy ship's about a hundred member crew.