Metro Manila, Philippines 
— France is ready to extend assistance to the Philippines in modernizing its armed forces, including the possibility of supplying assets for a Philippine “submarine force.”

In a press briefing, Rear Admiral Jean Mathieu-Rey, Joint Commander of the French Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific, said France is a good partner for the Philippines should it decide to pursue buying submarines.

“We are working with our partners with the Philippines on these kinds of assets. France has a long-time tradition of building submarines. We have started our submarine patrol since 1973,” Rey said.

“We are good partners who can help in establishing a submarine force,” he added.

Rey, however, clarified that no official deal has been reached so far.

The French official added that a “submarine force” would be beneficial for Manila when “confronted by competitors.”

Command patrols in West Philippine Sea

To further secure freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea, Rey said they are ready to hold command or joint patrols with their Philippine counterparts.

However, he noted there’s no agreement yet on when, where, or how the patrols will be conducted.

“We are here to propose command patrol in the area. For example, patrolling in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has a standing order that bans joint maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

Rey is in Manila from March 8 to 11 to meet with Philippine defense and military officials, and explore cooperation between the French and Philippine militaries.

The French Surveillance Frigate Vendémiaire (F734) will also be docked in Manila during the same period.

France said the port call of the French Frigate is one way of ensuring stability in the Indo-Pacific region.