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World | National

French Prime Minister Ayrault makes historic visit to Philippines this week - DFA
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, with a 130-member high-level delegation of ministers, lawmakers, and businessmen, will make a historic visit to the Philippines on Oct. 19-21 as the first French leader to visit the country since the establishment of diplomatic relation in 1947, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday. 

“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 department said in a news release.

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 department added.

Visit schedule

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 are strong and steadily growing. Total bilateral trade amounted to $1.143 billion in 2011. At the same time, French investments in the Philippines registered a significant increase in 2011 with total approved investments of P1.145 billion, up by 90% 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. Leading 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. 

Signing of business contracts

To further enhance economic cooperation between the two countries, a Philippine-French Business Forum will 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, health care, and environment. 

Cultural exchange, Cebu visit

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 9 April to 21 July 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 wide 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.

AFD has been supportive of Aquino administration’s development priorities particularly in the areas of climate change, green infrastructures, sustainable urban development and services including transport, water supply and sanitation, agro-forestry and biodiversity protection, and capacity building for local government units. 

Lending strength to the ties that bind both countries is a vibrant people-to-people exchange, marked by the strong presence of approximately 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.