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French shipbuilder to open Manila office in bid to supply submarines to PH Navy

French shipbuilder to open Manila office in bid to supply submarines to PH Navy

MANILA, Philippines—French shipbuilder Naval Group will open an office in Manila in early 2021 as it seeks to advance its serious interest in supplying the Philippine Navy’s first ever submarines.

The office opening would be the first step in fulfilling “a long-term commitment of cooperation and partnership in developing naval capabilities” for the Philippines, said the French defense contractor in a statement.

Among the catalogs that the Philippine Navy was taking a close look at is the Scorpene diesel-electric submarine which is manufactured by Naval Group.

Pierre-Eric Pommellet, Naval Group CEO, was quoted by Naval News last year as saying his company was in “intense discussions” with the Philippine government for the submarine purchase.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who had shown inclination towards the French submarines a few times, signed a nonbinding defense cooperation agreement with his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in 2019 for a possible deal to purchase submarines.

The Philippines’ interest in acquiring submarines had made it to the news in recent years. In 2019, then Navy chief Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said that the Navy had started to send some of its men to France for training ahead of a possible submarine deal.

The plan to acquire submarines had already been approved by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 but funding remained to be a major hurdle.

The Philippines, an archipelago with one of the world’s longest coastlines, is behind in the submarine race with its neighbors in the region. Having one of the weakest armed forces in the region, the Philippines is currently modernizing its military in the face of internal and external security issues.

Naval Group said it aims to bring its “breadth of experience and unrivalled expertise in ships and submarines” to Manila. It listed Malaysia, India and Australia as customers.

“We are the only provider with previous experience in helping a country develop a submarine force from scratch,” said Alain Guillou, Naval Group senior executive vice president for development.

“We stand ready to assist the Philippine Navy by providing the submarines but also setting up training, facilities and supply chain required to operate a fully operational submarine fleet,” he said.

Anne Clausard, country head of Naval Group, said the creation of a submarine force is “a fantastic opportunity for us to develop long term partnerships with the local industry where there will be transferring of knowledge and technology that will also create hundreds of jobs for the program and beyond.”

TSB