Tuesday, October 16, 2012

French PM to visit Philippines

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault will undertake an official visit to the Philippines from October 19 to 21, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Tuesday.

Accompanied by a 130-member delegation, comprised of Ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen, Prime Minister Ayrault’s visit will mark the first ever visit of a French leader to the Philippines since the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947.

“Prime Minister Ayrault’s visit does not only represent a milestone event in Philippine-French relations. More importantly, it sends a strong signal that France has taken serious notice of the positive developments in the country, and is ready to earnestly engage the Philippines as a vibrant and dynamic partner,” the DFA said.

Relations between the two countries have steadily progressed through the years, highlighted by the visit to France of the late President Corazon C. Aquino in July 1989 as Chief Guest during the bicentennial of the French Revolution. France was one of the first countries to recognize the government of former President Aquino at the height of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

“Through the theme: 'Enhancing Philippine-French relations through political, economic and cultural cooperation,' we are confident that the visit of Prime Minister Ayrault will infuse renewed dynamism to our bilateral ties and propel our partnership to greater heights,” the DFA added.

The three-day visit will be highlighted by a meeting in Malacañang between the French Prime Minister and President Benigno S. Aquino III, who will reciprocate the honor bestowed on his mother, former President Aquino, when she visited France in 1989. Both leaders are expected to exchange views on moving bilateral relations forward, as well as on regional and multilateral issues.

Economic relations between the two countries have been improving. Total bilateral trade amounted to $1.143 billion in 2011. French investments in the Philippines grew in 2011 with total approved investments of P1.145 billion, up by 90 percent compared to the previous year. French companies, such as LaFarge, TOTAL, AXA, and Alcatel, have strong presence in the country and have committed to increase their investments in the coming years. Global companies such as RATP Dev and Thales have likewise expressed interest to participate in the bidding for flagship projects under the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.

A Philippine-French Business Forum will also be held on October 20. The Forum will serve as a venue for the Prime Minister Ayrault’s accompanying delegation of key French businessmen to have a first-hand look at the strength of the Philippine economy, and the bright opportunities for doing business in the Philippines.

During the Forum, several business contracts will be signed and announced. The members of the French business delegation represent global players in various sectors like energy, aviation and aeronautics, transportation, infrastructures, electronics, healthcare and environment.

The visit will also affirm the heightening exchanges of the two countries in the area of cultural cooperation with the signing of an Agreement on the holding of the Grand Exhibition “Philippines – Art of Exchange” at the Musée du Quai Branly, the premier museum in France for indigenous art and culture, from April 9 to July 21 2013 in Paris.

The Exhibition will put the Philippines in the cultural map of France and is expected to attract thousands of French, European, and international visitors, as well as generate media exposure. Side events will be organized during the Exhibition to include workshops on Philippine cuisine, Philippine dances, Philippine musical instruments, and others.

Prime Minister Ayrault will end his visit in Cebu where he will witness a presentation on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which will be partly financed by the Agence Francaise du Developpement (AFD), the French government’s development cooperation arm.

There are about 50,000 Filipinos in France and about 4,000 French nationals in the Philippines. Most Filipinos in France are engaged in the services sector and skilled professionals. In 2011, Filipinos in France remitted a total of $51.3 million.-Black Pearl (October 16, 2012 3:07PM)

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