Statement of President Aquino after meeting with the President of France
Delivered in the Élysée Palace, Paris, on September 17, 2014
President François Hollande, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen:
First of all, we wish to thank President Hollande for the kind invitation you have extended to me. This is my first visit to France and it has become all the more memorable due to the warmth and hospitality that the government and people of France have demonstrated.
France is a country held by my people in high regard. This is not only because of the many advancements your people take pride in—but also, and more importantly, because France, almost 30 years ago, was among the first in the community of nations to recognize the revolutionary government of my mother, Corazon C. Aquino. France, at a critical juncture in my nation’s history, stood by us, as we worked to rebuild our democratic institutions. Then as now, France has been a close friend and a reliable partner of the Filipino people. Our two nations, after all, have always aspired to preserve the values that we share—democracy, social justice, the protection of human rights, and the respect for the rule of law. These same values have guided my nation in treading the straight path to inclusive growth and development.
Bearing in mind this strong partnership our two nations share, the President and I discussed a wide range of issues that seek to enhance our relationship.
First, the President and I resolved to deepen the Philippines and France’s partnership in the political, security, economic, and cultural spheres. We witnessed the signing of various agreements that will facilitate meaningful dialogue and fruitful exchanges between our two countries.
We have made significant strides as well towards updating our bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement. The Philippines is in the process of modernizing our armed forces and improving our defensive capability, and we believe that France will be a reliable partner in this regard.
We also agreed to convene regular meetings between our respective foreign and trade ministries, with the objective of strengthening our political and economic engagements, and spurring greater trade and investment activity between our nations. We have also resolved to explore even further the opportunities in each other’s markets.
Our deeper engagement only encourages the Philippines even more, as our nation is now more open for business. With a GDP growth of 7.2 percent, the Philippines was one of the fastest growing economies in Asia last year. The economy is expected to grow between 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2014, and 7 to 8 percent in 2015. Our population, estimated at 100 million people, whose median age is between 23 to 24 years old, is proud of its world-class workforce. It is one that is young, educated, skilled, innovative, and dynamic—this is seen in the number of Filipinos who are high-end users of various ICT networks.
The Philippines is determined to capitalize on the significant gains we have made in just four years—from the resurgence of our economy, to the restoration of trust and confidence from businesses, as well as the empowerment of our people and workforce. We believe France can contribute even more as we tread the straight and righteous path to greater progress.
For this reason, we look to France, whose companies have always been at the forefront of innovation, and whose guiding principles are enterprise. The Philippines likewise wants to further explore new areas of economic cooperation—most notably in the fields of aerospace, infrastructure development, agriculture, information and communications technology, tourism, and services, amongst others. Meanwhile, the new Air Services Agreement that we have just formally entered into will open more doors of opportunity for both our peoples, as we strengthen tourism, trade, business activity, and our people-to-people ties.
Our governments also committed to enhance cultural cooperation and to embark on more exchanges in education. The agreement between the École Nationale d’Administration and the Development Academy of the Philippines looks into the establishment of training and exchanges that will benefit our many civil servants in the Philippines, as they work to provide improved services. In the same manner, cooperation in the cultural field will, without doubt, promote heritage conservation, language and arts training, and cultural management—areas that are of vital importance in fostering greater understanding, thus, adding to the reservoir of goodwill between our peoples.
Second, I also had the opportunity to share with President Hollande the latest positive news on our government’s efforts to forge genuine peace and development in Mindanao. For decades, the interests and welfare of our Moro brothers and sisters in the Bangsamoro had been set aside, as inequality grew in the place we call the Land of Promise. Today, we tread the straight and righteous path towards building a more inclusive and more progressive Mindanao, through just and lasting peace.
Third, the President and I also had a meaningful exchange of views on the developments in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, and Europe. We discussed, with President Hollande, matters related to stability and security in Southeast Asia. We raised the Philippines’ concerns over the increasing tension in the South China Sea, a sea that is known in our region by many names. As President, I believe that with these concerns come the necessity for all countries in the region to commit to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS. This is the path my nation has chosen to take.
Mindful of the need for rational and responsible action, the President and I talked about the threat of climate change and the need for concrete and effective results from climate talks. I find this an opportune time to discuss this here, especially since the upcoming Conference of the Parties, or COP21, will be held in Paris next year.
We live in a single planet; and it is incumbent upon all of us—especially for the countries that have the capacity to contribute significantly to combating climate change—to come up with an equitable mechanism that every nation, every corporation, and every individual will adhere to. Typhoon Haiyan should not be the new norm, and it is our collective responsibility, therefore, to ensure that we bequeath a safer, more inclusive, and more resilient world to the next generation.
Finally, I extended the deep appreciation of the Filipino people for all the generous humanitarian assistance that the government and the people of France provided in the aftermath of Haiyan.
Mr. President, the solidarity that France has demonstrated will never be forgotten by a grateful Filipino nation.
Mr. President, we look to a future of deeper cooperation—one which will realize our peoples’ greatest potentials.
I am confident that we will continue to build on the successes of our relations, and work even harder in achieving that vision of mutual progress, inclusiveness, and greater understanding that we share for our peoples.
Thank you, and good day.