30 November 2015

President Aquino arrives in France for two-day working visit
(PARIS, France) President Benigno S. Aquino III arrived here at 6:04 p.m. Sunday (1:04 a.m. Monday in Manila) for a two-day working visit highlighted by his attendance to the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21).

President Aquino traveled for about 14 hours from the Philippines to share valuable insights during the annual summit on how the country has so far been putting up with the serious challenges posed by climate change.

On Monday, President Aquino would be joining over a hundred heads of state and government at the leaders’ event of COP21 to further discuss climate change mitigation proposals, hoping they would see each other eye to eye this time around.

“Magandang pagkakataon po ang mga pagtitipon sa Paris upang muling humakbang at idiin ang halaga ng pagkakaisa ukol sa climate change,” President Aquino said in his departure statement.

President Aquino would spearhead as well the Climate Vulnerable Forum high-level event on behalf of other developing countries most affected by frequent and intense natural disasters owing to climate change.

The COP21, otherwise known as the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, would run from November 30 to December 11 amid an extremely heightened security across the French capital.

France underwent a series of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State a couple of weeks ago and the presence of world leaders in COP21 has been considered a significant expression of solidarity to the French government following the tragedy.

“Ipapaabot natin ang ating pakikidalamhati sa kanilang mamamayan sa karumal-dumal na pangyayari sa kanilang bansa kamakailan lang. Nakikiisa po tayo sa kanila sa pagkondena sa ganitong karahasan na dulot ng pansariling interes ng masasamang elemento,” President Aquino said.

Apart from his speaking engagements, business meetings with French, Japanese, and Irish companies would also keep President Aquino occupied during his working visit here.

He would witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Bases Conversion Development Authority and the French organization, Vivapolis, for the development of the Green City project in Clark, Pampanga

President Aquino would wrap up his official activities in the French capital by Tuesday morning (December 1) before moving to Rome, Italy for a Filipino community event as well as meet with his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella.

In the days that follow, President Aquino will be in Vatican City for a reciprocal visit to His Holiness Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace, with climate change also expected to figure prominently in their discussion.

Pope Francis has recently issued an encyclical regarding his concerns on climate change especially as it affects the poorer sectors of the world population. He has also spoken about violent extremism and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe. PND (hdc)

President Aquino joins nation in celebrating Bonifacio Day
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday joined the Filipino nation in commemorating the 152nd birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, the father of the Philippine Revolution.

In his message on the occasion of Bonifacio Day, President Aquino paid homage to the revolutionary leader’s boldness in defending the country.

“The Filipino nation is united in commemorating Bonifacio Day. We pay tribute to a hero revered for his boldness in defending our motherland and for his determination to edify himself in the ways of his time—Andres Bonifacio,” the President said.

President Aquino said Bonifacio’s heroism and patriotism continue to inspire Filipinos even though more than a century has already passed since he led the Philippine revolution against Spain.

“More than a century after he led a revolution for independence, Bonifacio remains a vital source of inspiration for Filipinos. He has shown us how to rise above our circumstance and bring glory to our nation. May his example etch into our consciousness the responsibility we bear in advancing our country,” he said.

President Aquino urged Filipinos to emulate the example of Bonifacio, expressing hope that they would also find in themselves the courage to bolster the country’s progress.

“As we are reintroduced to this everyman who helped bequeath to us a future of freedom and dignity, may we also find in ourselves the courage to bolster our people’s progress and contribute to realizing a more equitable and harmonious tomorrow,” he said.

“The most recent chapter in our narrative reveals the strength we inherited from our ancestors: The united force of our citizenry has positively transformed the Philippine landscape and overcome the corruption that has long afflicted our society.”

The President further expressed hope that Filipino solidarity would “endure as we journey further along the Daang Matuwid, maximize the possibilities of our resurgence, sustain our Republic’s reform, and continue our pursuit of inclusiveness and justice”.

The Chief Executive also called on Filipinos to let the observance of Bonifacio Day “invigorate our community as we set forth grander aspirations”.

November 30 has been declared by the national government a regular holiday in honor of Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan, a movement that sought freedom from Spanish colonial rule. PND (co)

Direct Manila-Paris air link seen to boost Philippine tourism
(PARIS, France) Establishing an air link between Manila and Paris will boost the arrival of French tourists to the Philippines, Philippine Ambassador to France Ma. Theresa Lazaro has said.

Since the visit of President Benigno S. Aquino III in Paris last year, several agreements have been signed by the Philippines and France to strengthen their relations, Ambassador Lazaro told Radio TV Malacañang in a recent interview.

These agreements include those on trade cooperation, higher education, and research, as well as people-to-people exchanges.

Lazaro noted that last October, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo participated in business and trade discussions under a joint economic cooperation between the two countries.

“At may malaking delegasyon na pupunta sa Pilipinas to continue to strengthen the relations pagdating sa edukasyon. Education is very, very important among the other aspects,” she said.

“Meron din tayong pinirmahan na agreement on cultural matters and people-to-people exchanges. Dumadami na.”

In the tourism sector, Lazaro said they are waiting for the establishment of direct air services of the Philippine Airlines between Paris and Manila.

“With the direct flights, mapapaige pa ang tourism number natin pero even at this point, the French people are looking at the Philippines in terms of diving spots and, of course, our beaches are excellent beaches,” she said.

Based on Department of Tourism figures from January to September, France is one of the country’s high growth markets.

For the month of September alone, France belonged to the market with substantial growth in inbound tourists, with 34,173 arrivals (+16.75 percent).

Other markets that posted substantial growth were India, 54,565 arrivals; Saudi Arabia, 40,453; Argentina, 1,357; Brazil, 2,602; Spain, 17,523; Israel, 8,890; and Turkey 4,365.

On a regional basis, Eastern Mediterranean Europe had the highest increase of 44.8 percent; followed by South America with 33.5 percent; and South Asia with 20.56 percent. PND (as)

High growth rates attracting French companies to invest in Philippines, says envoy
(PARIS, France) The country’s good economic fundamentals are serving as a magnet for French companies to invest in the Philippines, the Philippine ambassador to France has said.

In a recent interview with Radio TV Malacañang, Ambassador Ma. Theresa Lazaro, said 13 chief executive officers (CEOs) from blue-chip French companies have shown interest in setting up their business process outsourcing (BPO) branches in the Philippines.

“In March, gusto nilang pumunta sa atin and look at the prospects. These are top, top French companies and this is very good news,” Ambassador Lazaro said.

Due to the sluggish economic growth in France, many French companies are looking elsewhere to put their money in, she said.

Lazaro noted that the Philippines is a good place for investment because even with the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), it posted a 7.2 percent growth.

“It is a business thing, so nakita nila the Philippines is a very good place to invest,” she said.

Citing the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) economic outlook, Lazaro said the Philippines is considered by the European organization as one of the fastest growing economies in the Southeast Asian region and it is seen to maintain a 6 percent growth until 2020.

“This is the economic outlook coming from OECD and this is very good news. At tayo ang nangunguna, more or less pareho tayo ng Vietnam,” she said.

This is due to the Philippines’ high growth rate, Lazaro pointed out, adding that although the country still needs to address several social concerns, the important thing is to maintain high positive growth.

Six percent is not an easy growth rate to achieve, and this is already being acknowledged by other countries, particularly by France, she added.

The reciprocal visits of French President Francois Hollande to the Philippines, as well as by President Benigno S. Aquino III to France last year also contributed to stronger relations between the two countries, the Philippine ambassador said.

President Aquino’s visit to France in September last year further strengthened the relations, she said, while President Hollande’s visit to the Philippines is very significant because he was the first president of France to visit the country in 63 years of French-Philippine relations.

After those visits, France began showing great interest in the Philippines and the Philippines now also sees France as a major partner, according to Lazaro.

“France was not in our radar screen in terms of total relations but because of the visits, at the highest level, the relations is very, very good,” she said.

President Aquino is here to attend the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). PND (as)

Philippines hopes to craft migration agreement with France, says envoy
(PARIS, France) The Philippine government hopes to forge a migration agreement with the French government so that undocumented Filipinos could legalize their stay in France.

Although some undocumented Filipinos in France are in the process of legalizing their status, some remain as illegals, Philippine Ambassador to France Ma. Theresa Lazaro said in a recent interview.

“Some are not yet there but they are moving towards that,” Ambassador Lazaro told Radio TV Malacañang.

“Maganda naman ang kalagayaan ng ating mga kababayan dito. And we’ve been monitoring them and hopefully, magkaroon tayo ng certain agreement in the coming year, probably next year, in terms of migration. And this is something na pinag-uusapan pa.”

With regards to the present situation, Lazaro noted that there are still some concerns with the Filipino community in France.

But generally speaking, she said, Filipinos are well-protected and their employment is good and they are well-treated by the French people.

Lazaro also reported that there was no Filipino casualty in the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.

Filipinos mingle at home and not in crowded public areas, so no one was affected, she pointed out.

The Philippine Embassy, she said, has been advising Filipinos to stay away from public places if they have no important transactions to make, to remain safe.

The French government has also assured that heads of states attending the climate change conference will be safe, the Philippine envoy said, adding that security has been intensified in France, especially in Paris.

Since the attacks last November 13, French authorities have heightened security measures in and around Paris, she said.

“I’m very impressed with the French authorities,” she said. “They are very, very thorough and even other European countries like Belgium.”

More than 20,000 Filipinos are living in France, with the biggest number — about 10,000 to 12,000 – staying in Paris, and the rest in southern France.

President Benigno S. Aquino III is here for the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. PND (as)