MANILA (Mabuhay) — French President François Hollande will visit the Philippines in 2015, in reciprocation for President Benigno Aquino III’s visit to France last September.
The French Embassy in Manila said climate change will top the French leader’s agenda, though it did not immediately cite the date of the visit.
“After President Aquino’s historic official visit to France as part of his European tour last September, French President François Hollande is expected to reciprocate it with a visit of his own to the Philippines next year,” it said.
It added that with the expected visit in 2015, President Hollande “would not only be the first French head of state, but also the first European head of state, to undertake an official visit to the Philippines.”
“The exchanges between our two countries have been at its highest point since 2012, and we’d like to continue this for the coming years. We are truly looking forward to this visit so that President Hollande could see first hand the economic, political, and cultural opportunities here in the Philippines,” French Ambassador Gilles Garachon said.
“With the upcoming visit of President Hollande, we hope to be able to open new areas for cooperation, as well as to strengthen our existing partnership in various sectors, and among them is the environment,” the French envoy added.
President Aquino’s visit to France last September 17 and 18 marked the first visit of a Philippine head of state since 1994.
During that visit, both leaders discussed “issues of mutual interest” and witnessed the signing of three agreements in trade, education, and culture.
Major subjects of the two leaders’ dialogue involved the environment and climate change.
Hollande stressed the consequences of global warming, citing the experience of the Philippines in the wake of super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013.
Yolanda had left at least 6,300 dead after devastating the Visayas.
The French president stressed the need for both countries to collaborate in addressing the effects of global warming.
Also, Hollande said he and Aquino agreed that “in the context of the preparation of the Climate Conference (21st Conference of Parties), France and the Philippines should work together, and on the occasion of my visit to your country, a visit that we could organize next year, we could illustrate what this conference on climate should be.”
Climate change is high among France’s foreign policy priorities, the embassy said.
The French Embassy said it is committed to work together with the Philippines to address climate change through projects to be carried out until December 2015.
It said the first project is a roundtable discussion organized by the Asia Centre in partnership with the French Regional Delegation for Cooperation with ASEAN (DREG) and supported by the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines and the Embassies of the United Kingdom and of Germany.
Slated in Manila on November 17 with the theme “ASEAN, Europe and the Philippines: Facing up to the Challenges of Climate Change,” the roundtable discussion will gather ASEAN officials, European representatives, political experts, scientists, and diplomats to exchange European and Asian perspectives and positions on the issue of climate change.
Complementing the roundtable discussion is a screening of films on climate change, to be followed by an open discussion on November 18 at the Alliance Française de Manille.
Among the short films to be screened are “Témoin du climat” by the Good Planet Foundation and Sally Jo Bellosillo’s “Haiyan: The Aftermath.” (MNS)