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Philippines, France to strengthen defense, food security cooperation - Marcos

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said Saturday that the Philippines and France have agreed to strengthen their partnership in low-carbon energy, food security, defense, and people-to-people ties.

Marcos had a 20-minute phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.

"We spoke with French President Macron over the phone and agreed to strengthen partnerships in low-carbon energy, food security, defense, and people-to-people ties," Marcos said in a statement.

"We praised the countries' 75-year diplomatic relationship and expressed hopes for deeper cooperation in the future," he added.

Both leaders also discussed regional and international developments and looked forward to meeting each other in person soon, Malacañang said in a separate statement. 

"Marcos commended Macron for his leadership role and diplomatic efforts to promote peace and security in Europe," the Palace said. 

Macron, meanwhile, reiterated France's commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, according to the French presidency.

France has been trying to maintain its influence in the Indo-Pacific after a diplomatic row following an earlier decision by Australia to cancel a multi-billion dollar French submarine program and opt for submarines to be built with US and British technology instead.

Macron told new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in July that he wanted to focus on the future as they try to rebuild relations badly strained by his predecessor's decision to ditch that submarine contract with Paris.

Earlier this week, the French government said it has offered to sell submarines to the Philippines in line with Manila's ongoing military modernization program to improve its defense and security capability. 

French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz said the submarine acquisition was raised during her meeting with Marcos.

"There are ongoing discussions, there is a tender, there’s been a proposal. This is an ongoing discussion between our two countries," Boccoz told a press briefing on the sidelines of a defense symposium hosted by the French Embassy and Stratbase Group on Wednesday.

Boccoz said France is ready to help the Philippines upgrade its defense capability.

Macron also urged the Philippines to join the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, which aims to protect 30% of marine and terrestrial territories by 2030, the Palace said. — with Reuters/VBL, GMA News