French President in PH for state visit Feb 26-27

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French President François Hollande will be in the Philippines for a two-day state visit on Feb 26 and 27 to expand and strengthen bilateral ties between France and the Philippines and to highlight the Philippines as a partner in the fight against climate change.

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This historic visit will be the first by a French head of state to the country since Philippine independence in 1946. In 2012, the French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, became the first French head of government to visit the country. In September last year, President Aquino’s visit to France was the first by a Philippine head of state since President Fidel Ramos in 1994.

The French President will be accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Laurent Fabius, Minister of State for Development and Francophony, Annick Girardin, and Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Ségolène Royal.

France’s Special Envoy for the Protection of the Planet, Nicolas Hulot, visited the country last January.

They will be joined by a dozen personalities well-known for their environmental advocacies, including actresses Marion Cotillard (Inception) and Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds), Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and high officials from various international organizations.

French businessmen and representatives from various French higher education institutions will also be traveling with the President.

President Hollande and President Aquino are expected to witness the signing of cooperation agreements in the areas of development, tourism, health, and academic exchanges. Business-to-business trade agreements will also be concluded during a forum hosted by the Makati Business Club.

President Hollande is also expected to formally open a climate change forum to be attended by Philippine government officials, members of the academe, and civil society representatives, together with members of the French delegation.

The French Head of State will also be present at the opening of an exhibit on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines and around the world by French photographer Ferrante Ferranti at the National Museum.

On his second day in the Philippines, President Hollande will make a symbolic visit to Guiuan, Samar, one of the areas most devastated by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. He ends his visit with a reception for the French community in the Philippines.

The state visit of President Hollande to the Philippines comes at a dynamic phase in the bilateral ties between the two countries and at a time when international negotiations on the environment approach a crucial stage.

“This visit has two important aspects. First, it is to highlight the very positive phase in the bilateral relations between France and the Philippines. The French President would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the friendly ties between our two countries,” French Ambassador Gilles Garachon said.

According to the Ambassador, the second important aspect is on the issue of climate change. Following the bilateral meetings and joint declaration at Malacañang, both leaders are expected to launch a call for the global community to support the signing of a climate agreement during the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) to be hosted by France in December 2015.

COP 21 is vital as 195 governments will endeavor to sign an ambitious and legally binding agreement to limit global warming below 2°C before the effects of climate change become irreversible.

“We would like to call on all leaders involved in international climate negotiations to reach an agreement as soon as possible. We’d like to make this call with the Philippines because your country is very much involved in the climate issue. The Philippines, though very vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, has a positive and constructive international stand,” Garachon said.

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