GUIUAN, Eastern Samar: French President Francois Hollande met survivors of one of the world’s strongest typhoons in a remote Philippine coastal town on Friday, seeking to sound a global alarm on climate change ahead of a crucial UN summit.
Hollande is on a two-day trip to the Southeast Asian archipelago, regarded as a frontline state in the struggle against global warming, as part of his campaign to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the Paris summit in December.
The French president is determined to broker a historic pact in Paris to save the world from the catastrophic impact of climate change, and he went to the storm-battered Philippines to highlight those feared consequences.
“My visit is not only as president of the Republic of France, but also as a member of the international community, which is mobilizing to succeed at the Paris summit,” Hollande said in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
The small fishing community of Guiuan was one of the first towns hit when Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) roared in from the Pacific Ocean 15 months ago with the strongest winds ever recorded on land.
Yolanda then swept across already deeply poor farming and fishing communities of central Philippines, claiming more than 7,350 lives in the world’s deadliest natural disaster of 2013.
The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons every year but scientists say they are getting stronger and more unpredictable because of climate change, and that this will likely mean more Yolanda-like disasters.
In Guiuan, Hollande met fishermen who lost their homes during the super typhoon, walked past the remains of a destroyed church and spoke at an elementary school with a roof still missing after being torn off during the typhoon.
“I’m here with you, in Guiuan, to show the entire world the devastation from the typhoon you have suffered,” he said.
“But I also want to show the entire world your courage, you strength and your resilience.”
Hollande, the first French head of state to visit the Philippines, brought a high-profile delegation with him, including French actresses Marion Cotillard and Melanie Laurent.
The Hollywood stars, as well as Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, traveled with him to Guiuan. AFP