PH, France begin talks on visiting forces deal— Teodoro
First posted at 4:50 p.m., Dec. 2, 2023
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) — The Philippines and France have begun talks to establish a visiting forces agreement between both countries, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. announced on Saturday.
Teodoro and his French counterpart, Minister of Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu, are leading the negotiations for the status of visiting forces agreement (SOVFA).
During a joint conference in Taguig City, Teodoro emphasized the goal of advancing and broadening defense cooperation.
“We intend to take concrete steps in leveling up and making more comprehensive our defense cooperation, by working to get authorization of our respective heads of state to begin the negotiation for the status of visiting forces agreement,” Teodoro said.
The two nations also signed a letter of intent to formally open negotiations for the SOVFA. Lecornu highlighted the significance of this initiative, especially in terms of legal security for operational partnerships.
“We just signed a very important letter with a number of political goals, especially giving legal security to our operational partnerships,” Lecornu said.
Acknowledging France’s strategic presence in the Pacific due to its overseas territories, Lecornu remarked, “It goes without saying that your country and this bilateral relationship is a priority of ours.”
Teodoro noted the absence of a definitive timeline for finalizing the SOVFA but expressed optimism, drawing parallels with the swift negotiations with Japan for a similar agreement.
“We cannot give a definite timeline because that is a matter for the heads of state to decide. In our experience with Japan, it happened very rapidly. So we hope that the same thing happens here,” he said.
The Philippines is currently engaged in similar negotiations with Japan and has existing SOVFAs with Australia and a Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States. These agreements provide a legal framework for the presence of foreign troops during joint military exercises in the Philippines.
Based on the 1987 Constitution, any visiting forces deal must be ratified by the Senate, requiring the concurrence of at least two-thirds of all its members.