PH, France may sign new cooperation deal

By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at May 03 2014 09:27 AM | Updated as of May 03 2014 05:27 PM

MANILA, Philippines - France sees the Philippines as a key partner in Southeast Asia.

French Navy Cmdr. Frederic Daumas said they are looking forward to signing a new cooperation agreement with the Philippine Navy.

“We hope that in the future, we will increase our partnership and maybe sign a new agreement reinforcing our cooperation,” he said.

“We need to be interoperable. We need to know each other’s procedure, each other’s material and that’s why we need to train more together.”

The Philippine Navy and the French Navy formally started their partnership when they signed an agreement in 1999, he added.

Daumas is commanding officer of the 93.5-meter French Navy ship Prairial, which ended its five-day goodwill visit yesterday.

The Prairial has 93 crew members comprised of military and civilians. It has visited the Philippines seven times.

Philippine Navy officials led by Capt. Benito Ante sent off the French contingent in simple ceremonies at South Harbor in Manila.

Daumas said they are seeking to boost the relationship with the Philippine Navy as every nation must uphold freedom of navigation and the rules governing the sea.

“It is a very important partner because every country has its own responsibility, regionally to protect the rule of the sea, the freedom of navigation, protect the environment and be able to secure its own area,” he said.

“France as a permanent member of United Nations Security Council, of course, is really concerned with global security and we want every partner and every friend to contribute in securing the world’s future for the coming generations.”

Daumas said they are enhancing their ties with other countries, especially those in the Asia Pacific, which he believes is the center of strategic views in the 21st century.

“We all need to participate in securing this area and building friendly relationships with as many partners as we can,” he said.

Daumas said they are also planning to visit South Korea, Japan and China to uphold freedom of navigation.

“We need to establish links with everybody and we need to be sure that everybody works in the same way in protecting the interest of the freedom of navigation,” he said. “And the high sea belongs to everybody and should not be taken by one country.”

Navy ready for Chinese

The Navy is ready to protect Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea against Chinese claims.

Speaking to reporters at Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) Thursday, new Navy chief Rear Adm. Jesus Millan said equipment and surface assets are dedicated in every unified command, including the Armed Forces Western Command (Wescom), which oversees Palawan and Ayungin Shoal.

“We take guidance from our national leadership and we are sustaining what is already there,” he said.

“What we are doing is prepare our units to be able to provide the necessary response to what is needed. We are preparing our men and equipment.”

Marines stationed in the grounded BRP Sierra Madre are guarding Ayungin Shoal within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Navy officials accompanying Millan asked the local government in the area to show a strong Philippine presence.

‘Gov’t is fooling the people’

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the Aquino administration is “fooling the people” into thinking the US will defend the Philippines in case of Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

“President Obama has publicly declared that the US will not defend the Philippines against China,” he said.

Colmenares said the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty does not cover the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal as Malacañang claims.

“Now the Aquino administration is back-pedaling to the Mutual Defense Treaty to save face by assuring the people that the US, through a mere note verbale, will come to our aid under the treaty even if the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal are not part of the Pacific as required under Article V of the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he said.

Colmenares said the diplomatic note is not a binding commitment, and that the US will not go to war just because of that document.

“We do not need a treaty or an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA),” he said. “We can just resort to exchanges of note verbales. The government is fooling and misleading the people.”

Colmenares said the US owes China $1.28 trillion, which Obama admitted during a press conference with President Aquino.

Colmenares said EDCA has granted the US a franchise to operate a telecommunications system and all the radio band spectrums it requires, and tax exempted water, electricity and other public utilities for the use of US troops and contractors.

“While ordinary Filipinos pay value-added taxes and other fees for the use of electricity and other public utilities, we are subsidizing the taxes of the Americans,” he said.

“While the Bureau of Internal Revenue goes after Filipino taxpayers, Malacañang has given tax exemptions to the US. The grant of franchise and tax exemption is not within the power of the executive but is a power of Congress.” –With Roel Pareño, Paolo Romero