PH, France deepen bilateral ties with new agreements
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines and France on Wednesday, September 17, forged agreements that are expected to further strengthen trade, political, cultural, and security cooperation between the two countries.
In a joint press conference after their bilateral meeting at the Elysee Palace, President Benigno Aquino III and French President Francois Hollande said that they have agreed to convene regular meetings between their foreign and trade ministries to further strengthen their political and economic engagement.
"We have resolved to explore further the opportunities in each other's markets." Aquino said.
He said that the Philippines is now "more open to business" as its economy is expected to grow from 6.5-7.5% this year, and 7-8% in 2015.
Aquino said that with a population 100 million people, "the Philippines is determined to capitalize on the significant gains we have made in the last 4 years" and will venture into "news areas of economic cooperation" with France in various industries such as aerospace, infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism services, among others.
He said the new air services agreement between the two countries "will open more doors for our people," while an agreement on a training and exchange program will benefit Philippine civil servants.
Defense cooperation, climate change
Aquino said that the two countries have made "significant strides in updating our bilateral defense cooperation agreement."
"The Philippines is in the process of modernizing our Armed Forces and improving our defense capability and we believe that France will be a reliable partner in this regard," he added.
As in his previous meetings with other leaders during his Europe trip, the Philippine president again raised the Philippines' concern over rising tension in the South China Sea.
"As President, I believe that with these concerns, comes the necessity for all countries in the region to commit to the full settlement of disputes in accordance with international law including United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is the path my nation has chosen to take," Aquino said.
The French president expressed support for the position taken by the Philippines.
In a joint statement, the two leaders said that during their meeting, "they emphasized the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in fostering peace and stability in this part of the world."
The Philippines has been pushing for the implementation of a binding DOC, which has been opposed by China, which wants to settle its row over claims in the South China Sea on a country-to-country basis.
Aquino said he and Hollande also discussed the threat of climate change "and the need for concrete and effective results from climate talks" at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) on Climate Change in Paris in 2015.
Hollande said that he will further discuss this with Aquino when he visits the Philippines next year, apparently ahead of the COP.
"We agreed that in the context of the preparation of the climate conference, that France and the Philippines should work together and on the occasion of my visit to your country, a visit we can organize next year, we can illustrate what this conference on climate should be," the French president said.
Aquino also said that France is a country held in high regard by the Filipino people not only because of its prominence in various fields, but also because it was among the first nations to recognize the revolutionary government of his mother, Corazon Aquino, in 1986.
In his statement, Hollande said Aquino's visit reminds them of another visit to France made by a Philippine president 25 years ago – Corazon Aquino.
"For historical arsons, we share the same values: the value of freedom, autonomy, dignity and for these reasons, some 25 years ago, your mother visited us and did so as a symbol of democracy in Asia and today, you're not just her son, you're her continuity," the French president said.
Hollande also said that France is doing its best to be a good host to the 50,000 Filipinos living in the country, and described them as "agents of development" of both countries as well as agents of French culture in the Philippines, where he would like the French language to be spoken more.
The President will also meet with members of the Filipino community, composed of members of about 50 active associations, at the Chapelle Sainte Bernadette. – Rappler.com
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