The Italian Navy offshore patrol vessel dubbed the Francesco Morosini docked on Saturday in Manila for a four-day goodwill visit, signalling Italy’s rising interest in this strategic hub.
The chief of staff of the Italian Navy Fleet, Rear Admiral Fabio Gregori, said that the visit is meant to develop defence and security ties and strengthen the cooperation with the Philippines as Rome seeks an enhanced presence in the Indo-Pacific, including the much-debated South China Sea. He said they routinely plan to deploy vessels into the Indo-Pacific to strengthen the ties with Navies in the important area, as mentioned in a press conference on the vessel.
Marco Clemente — Italy’s Ambassador to the Philippines — said that the deployment aligns with the 2016 Arbitral Ruling in focusing on the essence of following the international law of the sea. The arbitral tribunal that adjudicates the case of the Philippines against China in the waters of the South China Sea ruled on 2016 (12 July) in favour of the Philippines, determining that the key elements of China’s claim — including the nine-dash line, most recent land reclamation activities, and other kinds of activities in the Philippine waters — were illegal.
The Francesco Morosini will be in the country till 11 July as part of a five-month naval campaign for promoting naval diplomacy with freedom of navigation, respect toward international law of the sea, and, of course, a safe and inclusive Indo-Pacific.
Toward the end of the visit, it will conduct a joint passing exercise (abbreviated PASSEX) with the Philippine Navy that Clemente thinks would open up further opportunities for the Philippine-Italy maritime collaboration.
He said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the term “game changer” about the visit. Morosini’s presence can bring a difference in the future of bilateral relations.
Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, conveyed on 15 June that Italy intends to take up defence collaboration with Manila, especially regarding defence equipment procurement. Attaché Maurizio Pitton, Italy’s Defense, had discussed future collaborations with the Philippine navy regarding the new concept and the new generation patrol vessels, which can help the Philippines’ modernization efforts.
Clemente also disclosed that the two governments are striving to finalize a memorandum to improve military-industry relations. He refused to share details but mentioned that the agreement would serve as the “base of the future” defence cooperation between the Philippines and Italy.
He said they have a lot to offer, and he is glad to declare that the Philippines have much to ask about; they are keen on their technology. This is the first time that Francesco Morosini has made a port call in Manila, which coincides with the 76th anniversary of the ties between the Philippines and Italy on 9 July.
The second vessel that belongs to Italy’s navy’s multipurpose offshore patrol vessel class, the Francesco Morosini, can hold civil protection activities and military tasks, including patrol, surface combat, logistics, and transport.
Reference: The Manila Times, pna.gov.ph
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