Sep 122014
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Ambassador Gilles Garachon. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The French Ambassador to the Philippines sees the upcoming visit of President Benigno Aquino III to France as a big boost to the diplomatic relations of both countries.

“President Aquino’s trip to France, as well as to the other European countries and to the European Union (EU), shows the existing partnership between our governments, as well as the continuing friendship between our peoples,” Ambassador Gilles Garachon said in a statement Friday.

“This visit is expected to reap economic, political, and cultural gains for both our countries, which we hope would lead to greater opportunities for bilateral cooperation. Perhaps next year, we could see a visit by French President François Hollande to the Philippines,” he said.

Aquino will be travelling to four countries in Europe: Belgium, France, Spain, and Germany from Sept. 13 to 20. After Europe, Aquino will fly to the United States, where he will visit Boston, New York, and San Francisco from Septemer 20 to 23.

This is Aquino’s first trip as Philippine president to the European countries.

Diplomatic relations between Philippines and France were first formalized in 1947. There are at least 51,000 Filipinos in France as of December 2012 figures of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

The majority of them, around 42,000, are irregular in status while there are 8,600 permanent and 1,000 temporary Filipinos in France.

“Today, we are witnessing an exciting phase in bilateral relations between France and the Philippines,” Garachon said.

“We are riding a momentum of increased cooperation between our two countries, which started when then-Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault visited the Philippines in 2012,” he said.

The following will be Aquino’s schedule according to the French Embassy:

-The President will be arriving in Paris on September 17 from Brussels, Belgium, and will leave for Berlin, Germany on September 19.

-Upon his arrival in Paris, President Aquino will be welcomed with military honors at the Arc de Triomphe and will proceed to the Elysée Palace for a bilateral meeting with French President François Hollande.

-Both heads of state will witness the signing of agreements in the areas of culture, education, transportation, and communications, among others.

-A joint communiqué will be given before the press, to be immediately followed by a lunch hosted by President Hollande.

-President Aquino will then proceed to the Hotel Matignon later in the afternoon for bilateral talks with French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

-In the morning of September 18 at the Intercontinental Hotel, President Aquino will formally open the Philippines-France Business Council organized by the Mouvement des entreprises de France (MEDEF) International and the Department of Trade and Industry.

(MEDEF International is a non-profit private-funded organization that represents over 4,000 French companies operating all over the world.)

-President Aquino will then proceed to the Institut français des relations internationales (IFRI), a Paris-based think tank, to deliver a policy speech.

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