Speech of French President François Hollande during the France-Philippines Business Forum [fr]
Fairmont Hotel, Manila - February 26, 2015
Ladies and gentlemen, ministers, ambassadors, business leaders, and to the president of the Makati Business Club, I wish to thank you for having organized this forum.
It is true that this is the first state visit of a French head of state to the Philippines, and it was also a few months ago that I welcomed President Aquino to Paris.
There is a common will between our two countries, common commitments, common engagements, through our friendship, that will be of great help to the world.
We find ourselves here today to speak not just about the economy, but about climate change as well, because these two objectives cannot be taken separately. Everything which we do against climate change, we can also use to spur growth, increase development, and create prosperity and employment.
It would be a great fault to think that we would obliged to take on this battle against climate change to the detriment of our commercial interests, it’s actually the opposite. Today, I am here in the Philippines, a country ravaged by catastrophes, by typhoons, earthquakes, and at the same time, a country which has risen up, recovered, and which has taken these tragedies and turned them into an opportunity for growth.
You have had for the past several years an impressive growth at 6%, and this explains why many companies from all over the world have decided to invest in the Philippines. These French companies have been here for a while, for the last thirty years, such as Total and Sunpower. Others have arrived recently, I will not cite them all as there are very many of them and some are present here in today’s forum.
With President Aquino, we have decided to strengthen the economic partnership between our two countries. On one side, the Philippines has considerable needs in the areas of sustainable development and infrastructures, with needs of more than a hundred million dollars. You also have important investments to make in renewable energy and in the development of professional centers, and it is in these fields that France may be of assistance. France has been on your side when it came to finding unique ways to alleviate the challenges that your country has been facing.
But today, France wishes for more development for the Philippines. I am pleased to see that a certain number of agreements have been signed. There are also projects that we are pursuing together, such as that in the area of transportation with the LRT extension project. There is also one on renewable energy through hydropower. We have the technology for this that we can share with you. We have the conversion of solid waste into electricity in Quezon City, the conversion of biomass into electricity. We can also generate electricity using rice straw. We have also developed an energy-saving system for climatization. On solar energy, you are also on point. Our collaborations in renewable energy can also be a window, an example, a reference for the rest of the world.
I also know that you are interested in working with France in the area of health, particularly for the dengue vaccine. For tourism, where your country has considerable potential, there are too few European and French tourists that visit your country. The airline operators are available to you, and I know that, with President Aquino, we will have an advantageous arrangement.
Certainly it has been said that there are too many obstacles, both tariff and non-tariff barriers, for the development of our commercial exchanges, particularly in the agribusiness sector. It is for this reason that France had made a case before the European Union for the privileged status of the Philippines in commerce, most notably in agribusiness.
But allow me to go back to climate change because, like I said earlier, it is both a challenge and an opportunity. Your country has experienced much suffering due to climate change, where thousands upon thousands were affected by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The provinces were devastated, homes were destroyed, people were displaced, and the necessary amount needed for reconstruction is at 15, 30 billion dollars.
But without a doubt, the worst is what the future holds. Having been affected by typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, these events will continue to hinder development and hit those most vulnerable. This is why we must work together. I have come here to the Philippines to launch an appeal, to seal an alliance with the Philippines. We are here to push for what can be done after the Paris Climate Conference, if it will be successful, to further link developed and emerging countries, to assure energy transition, and of course, protection and prevention.
We know very well the data and information concerning this problem. All is known and there is no doubt that if we leave the planet as it is, there will be an increase in the earth’s temperature well above 2°C, which will be extremely problematic. We can reach 4°, 5° and it can easily be imagined that this could produce new catastrophes. And it would not simply affect countries such as yours, but countries all over the world.
France is a country that is present in all continents. France is largely open to the sea, whether in the metropolis or in the overseas territories. We know that others have contributed to global warming, and it is because of this that we are being involved in this issue.
France has shown its solidarity when the Philippines was hit by disasters. We have shared our experiences, and I thank the French companies that have been part of the France-Philippines United Action for coordinating the aid from the private sector.
I know also what has been done for reparation, particularly for the construction of shelters. I know that the different airlines, together, both French and Philippines, have made efforts to deliver supplies and food. I also recognize what the big companies have done to offer help. But France is not simply a country of fraternity and solidarity, which will be illustrated when I travel to Guiuan tomorrow.
France wants to put its technologies, its expertise, its competencies in the service of countries that are in transition, those that are most vulnerable. The principle that we wish to put forward is that of adaptation. It will take time to change our economies, to establish new forms of production, consumption and use of energy. Each country should do its part in energy transition. We are doing this in France. A law is about to be passed, and this will be very important to diversify sources of energy, to adopt an energy renewal program, and on savings as well. We wish to offer this expertise to the Philippines and to other vulnerable countries.
Already, the French Development Agency in the Philippines, in coordination with the business sector, was able to finance over 300 million euros worth of technical assistance, most notably in the area of adaptation.
We think that we should go further, and this will be the issues of funding that we could clear up after the Paris Conference. At the Paris Climate Conference, we have 3 objectives: the first is to ask each country, each state, its contribution for the fight against climate change. The second objective is to put in place new sources of funds for the most vulnerable countries to go far and go fast in their energy transition. The third objective is to implement binding rules for a universal agreement which would prevent the planet from reaching a temperature of more than 2°C by the end of this century.
This will be the commitment in the climate agreement. But for this to be successful, we should seal an alliance, one that should not be a defensive alliance. It should not simply be to prevent, but to conquer, to innovate, to invent. Progress is not simply a fight against a degraded form of progress. It is to ensure that humanity must have the necessary tools to assure its own development.
We, the states, the governments, have of course a responsibility. During the negotiations, we would need to have vigilance and commitment at the highest level. But nothing can be done if the companies, the large organizations, the international institutions, and also the financial institutions, would not mobilize on this issue. There is what we call an agenda of solutions where the companies, the non-government organizations, the local governments, the regions, can work together to change a certain number of practices, behaviors, and invent new ways of living for our respective countries. We should have many technologies and scientific research, as well as investments, and not simply taxes that would discourage or rules that would impede. We need to create a flux of considerable investments in the following years that should be used for this mobilization.
This is my message which I address to you, the business sector: continue to innovate, to invent, to invest. Understand that today, climate change is no longer our obligation, but our leverage to generate green and sustainable growth. Make partnerships such as those already existing between the Philippines and France to understand the needs of one another and the capabilities that our countries can offer. And then after, we will have this alliance, an alliance between countries. France is not a country severely affected by climate change, but a country that is without a doubt one of the most aware of what it can contribute to peace.
If I fight as much on this climate issue, it is because I am consistent. I know that if this problem would be ignored, more conflicts will emerge and people from across borders would be displaced. There would be more and more violent competition over areas protected from the effects of climate change. In fighting against climate change, we also make peace and offer a different perspective of the world.
This alliance is one that is between companies, between countries, between generations, between individuals do not know but actually share common values. My country was tested by terrorist attacks last January and amid the tragedy, received an exceptional show of solidarity from the world.
The Philippines was hit months ago by natural calamities, and you have also seen this solidarity from the international community. What we need for the Paris Climate Conference to be a success is to bring out the best in our countries and all over the world.