France offers 50M euros to PH for disaster prevention

MANILA, Philippines – France has offered the Philippines 50 million euros ($56.6 million) to help fund projects that would help avert “further disasters.”

French President Francois Hollande made the loan offer when he met with President Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang Palace on Thursday, February 26, the first day of his two-day state visit to the country, anchored on climate change.

“I have offered to President Aquino 50 million euros through the French Development Agency to work on projects to prevent some further disasters from happening,” Hollande said in his opening statement in his joint press briefing with Aquino after their bilateral meeting.

The French leader made the statement while discussing his government’s desire to continue its assistance in rebuilding parts of the Philippines devastated by recent natural disasters.

Hollande added: “We will work together on innovations that will be a point of reference, examples  for the entire world….If our partnership can be seen as outstanding, then we can have show that technology, science, are at the service of mankind, and it would be very much be the purpose, the meaning of the appeal that we will launch today.”

The French leader was referring to the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change, launched right after their joint press briefing. (READ: FULL TEXT: Manila Call to Action on Climate Change)

In their joint declaration, the two leaders cited the French offer.

"The Government of the French Republic will extend to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, through the French Development Agency, a loan of at least fifty million euros to contribute to the implementation of prevention and reconstruction actions in response to natural disasters resulting from the effects of climate change or from other causes."

In his statement, Aquino again thanked the French government for its “fraternal solidarity” with the Philippines at times of great need, such as the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), and the agreements signed by the two countries during his visit to Paris in 2014.

He said both the Philippines and France are committed to work closely during the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties in Paris later this year. 

South China Sea

Aquino also said that he and Hollande “reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability in Southeast Asia and promoting maritime security, freedom of navigation and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including UNCLOS” and the global fight against terrorism.

The two leaders renewed their call for a binding Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to promote regional peace and stability.

"We call for a full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in fostering peace and stability," they said in their joint declaration.

"On international peace and security, we affirm our opposition to any acquisition or claim, by coercion or force, of any or all territory of a State by another State, in violation of international law, especially the Charter of the United Nations," they added.

Agreements on tourism, education, marine protection

In their joint declaration, Aquino and Hollande agreed to "expand and strengthen bilateral relations and elevate the bilateral relationship to an enhanced partnership between the Philippines and France" to mark the first visit of a sitting French president to the Philippines.

"Acknowledging that our two countries have entered a new, more dynamic and future-oriented era in the development of bilateral relations, we commit to maintain this positive momentum and to mobilize our respective governments towards this end," the joint declaration read.

The Philippines and France signed 3 agreements on the occasion of Hollande’s visit.

Philippine and French officials signed the bilateral documents in the presence of the two leaders held at the Palace grounds.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and French Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy Marie Segolene Royal signed a Declaration of Intent (DOI) of the Philippines and France on the Protection of the Environment and the Sustainable Development of Marine Resources.

The bilateral collaboration is intended to better understand, plan, and manage the consequences of climate change on the environment and marine resources, and is expected to help improve the living conditions of communities dependent on marine resources.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius signed the Agreement on Tourism Cooperation, which will help promote the Philippines as a quality destination in France.

The agreement will also help in acquiring best practices in natural and cultural heritage tourism, and the development of ecotourism and sustainable tourism.

France is the third largest tourist market of the Philippines in Europe and our country, increasing by 16% to 40,000 tourists in 2013.

Del Rosario and  French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Philippines-France Cooperation in the Area of Higher Education and Research.

The MOU is envisioned to promote student mobility particularly in the masteral and doctoral levels, and promote the recognition of degrees and diplomas of both parties by their respective qualifications frameworks, and facilitate the exchange of faculty, experts, administration personnel, academic personnel and students through university partnerships.

Under the MOU, the Philippine Commission of Higher Education and the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research will aim to develop Philippines-France collaboration in the field of science for 2015-2020. – Rappler.com

1 euro = $1.13