French PM to visit Manila Oct. 19-21
The DFA said Ayrault will be accompanied by a 130-member delegation composed of ministers, parliamentarians and businessmen.
"Prime Minister Ayrault's visit will make the first ever visit of a French leader to the Philippines since the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947," it said.
The department added that Ayrault's visit not only represents a milestone in Philippine-French relations, but also sends a strong signal that France has taken "serious notice" of the positive developments in the country, and is "ready to earnestly engage the Philippines as a vibrant and dynamic partner."
"Through the theme: 'Enhancing Philippine-French relations through political, economic and cultural cooperation,' we are confident that the visit of Prime Minister Ayrault will infuse renewed dynamism to our bilateral ties and propel our partnership to greater heights," the DFA said.
Highlighting the three-day visit will be a meeting in Malacañang between Ayrault and President Benigno Aquino III.
The DFA said Aquino will reciprocate the honor bestowed on his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino, when she visited France in 1989.
"Both leaders are expected to exchange views on moving bilateral relations forward, as well as on regional and multilateral issues," the DFA said.
Ayrault will end his visit in Cebu, where he will witness a presentation on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which will be partly financed by the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), the French government's development cooperation arm.
AFD has been supportive of the Aquino administration's development priorities, particularly in the areas of climate change, green infrastructures, sustainable urban development and services including transport, water supply and sanitation, agro-forestry and biodiversity protection, and capacity building for local government units.
The DFA noted that economic relations between the two countries are strong and steadily growing. Total bilateral trade amounted to US$1.143 billion in 2011.
French investments in the Philippines registered a significant increase in 2011 with total approved investments of P1.145 billion, up by 90 percent compared to the previous year.
The DFA added that French companies such as LaFarge, TOTAL, AXA, and Alcatel have strong presence in the country and have committed to increase their investments in the coming years.
"Leading global companies, such as RATP Dev and Thales, have likewise expressed interest to participate in the bidding for flagship projects under the government's Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program," it said.
A Philippine-French business forum will be held on Oct. 20 that will serve as a venue for Ayrault's accompanying delegation of key French business leaders to have a first-hand look at the strength of the Philippine economy, and the bright opportunities for doing business in the Philippines.
"During the Forum, several business contracts will be signed and announced. The members of the French business delegation represent global players in various sectors like energy, aviation and aeronautics, transportation, infrastructures, electronics, healthcare and environment," the DFA said.
During the visit, an agreement will be signed on the holding of the Grand Exhibition "Philippines - Art of Exchange" at the Musée du Quai Branly, the premier museum in France for indigenous art and culture, from April 9 to July 21, 2013 in Paris.
The exhibition will put the Philippines in the cultural map of France and is expected to attract thousands of French, European, and international visitors, as well as generate wide media exposure.
Side events will be organized during the exhibition such as workshops on Philippine cuisine, Philippine dances, and Philippine musical instruments.
The DFA said ties between the Philippines and France steadily progressed through the years, highlighted by the visit to France of the late President Corazon Aquino in July 1989.
Mrs. Aquino was chief guest during the bicentennial of the French Revolution at the time.
Also, the DFA said France was one of the first countries to recognize the government of former President Aquino in the wake of the 1986 EDSA-1 Revolution.
It said there are some 50,000 Filipinos in France and about 4,000 French nationals in the Philippines.
Most Filipinos in France are engaged in the services sector and skilled professionals. In 2011, Filipinos in France remitted $51.3 million. — BM, GMA News