In recent years, a myriad of issues has emerged to destabilize the Indo-Pacific region, with challenges brought about by climate change, resource overextraction, and growing great power competition being among the many flashpoints in the region. Responding to these challenges, France has spearheaded renewed European interest in the Indo-Pacific, itself a resident Indo-Pacific power with overseas territories in both oceans.

Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, in partnership with the Embassy of France in Manila and the French Armed Forces in the Pacific, held a forum last June 3, 2021, on France as an Alternative Defense Partner and Power in the Indo-Pacific. The forum focused on France’s perceived role in the region, its capacity to contribute to addressing regional defense and security challenges, as well as the Philippine perspective in France’s possible contributions to the region and opportunities for bilateral cooperation.

H.E. Michèle Boccoz, Ambassador of the Republic of France to the Philippines, formally opened the forum by dedicating the webinar to the memory of Dr. Aileen Baviera, Founding President of APPFI. She also highlighted the developments in France’s relations with institutions and governments in the Indo-Pacific, and its interests in the region, including the strengthening of a rules-based order, encouraging the development of vibrant blue economies, and the enhancement of shipbuilding and other maritime industries.

Dr. Eric Frécon from the French Research Institute in Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC) presented his analysis of France’s strategy in engaging the Indo-Pacific, highlighting some important aspects of the strategy and how it relates to emerging trends and issues. Mr. Jesse Pascasio from the Department of National Defense highlighted emerging issues in national defense and security that could be opportunities for further bilateral cooperation between France and the Philippines.

Rear Admiral Jean-Mathieu Rey, the Joint Commander of the French Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific (ALPACI) discussed France’s capabilities and partnerships in the region and their capacity to respond to regional issues. Rear Admiral Rommel Jude Ong (ret.) focused on the current security architecture in the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia and emerging trends in the region and looking at possible openings and opportunities for France to contribute to regional security.