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Secretary of Foreign Affairs meets French Foreign Minister Fabius in Paris

Paris, 31 May 2013 -  Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto del Rosario held political consultations today, 31 May, with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, at the Quai d’Orsay (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in Paris.

The meeting is the first since 2001, when the last political consultations were held, and comes in the heels of the historic and successful visit to the Philippines of French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault last October, who was accompanied by a big French business delegation.

Secretary Del Rosario acknowledged Minister Fabius as a special friend of the Philippines, recalling that in 1986, the Minister, who was then France’s Prime Minister, was among the first to acknowledge the government of former President Corazon Aquino during the People Power revolution.

Minister Fabius conveyed the French government’s appreciation for what the Philippines has been doing and has achieved in the past years, and expressed France’s desire to forge close partnerships with the Philippines in various areas of endeavors. 

Discussions covered a range of bilateral issues.  Secretary del Rosario shared with the French Minister, the recent positive developments in the Philippines, including the Philippines’ posting of the highest 1st quarter GDP growth rate in Asia of 7.8%.  He underscored that President Aquino’s good governance has definitely translated into good economics for the country. The Secretary also expressed his admiration for France’s leadership in Europe and in the international community, and with reference to France’s present economic difficulties, told Minister Fabius that he was confident France will be able to surmount these challenges.

Encouraged by the positive developments in the country, Secretary del Rosario said that that the Philippines is very much looking forward to engaging France, especially in the priority sectors of agriculture, infrastructure, and tourism.  He particularly sought France’s assistance in sharing its expertise to upgrade the Philippines’ tourism capabilities, noting that France is the cultural capital and the most popular tourist destination in the world.

In other areas of cooperation, Secretary del Rosario thanked the French Minister for France’s proactive assistance in helping the Philippines address the EU’s airline safety concerns.  The French Minister gave assurance that a positive decision from the EU was forthcoming.  He also confirmed to Secretary del Rosario that the Philippines would no longer be included in the updated French fiscal blacklist, and referred to the recent news of the inclusion of the Philippines in the foreign aid fraud blacklist, as incorrect. 

In the political front, both Ministers agreed that reviving the political consultation process would be an effective mechanism for charting the future of bilateral relations.  Opportunities in defense cooperation were also explored, including the updating of the 1994 Philippines-France Defense Cooperation Arrangement, which they said could be further pursued by both countries’ defense ministers.

On cultural engagement, Secretary del Rosario mentioned to Minister Fabius that he has visited the Philippine Exhibition, “Philippines – Archipel des Echanges” at the Musee du Quai Branly, and expressed appreciation to France for the opportunity to showcase the cultural heritage of pre-colonial Philippines.  He also reiterated the request for France’s support to the candidature of the Philippines in the World Heritage Committee.

Apart from bilateral issues, the two ministers also exchanged views on regional and international issues, including the maritime disputes in the South China Sea and the Philippine initiative of bringing its case before the UNCLOS  Arbitral Tribunal.  

In highlighting the importance given to France, Secretary del Rosario reiterated to the French Minister, President Aquino’s invitation to President Hollande to visit the Philippines. He also conveyed President Aquino’s thanks to President Hollande for the invitation to the Philippine President to visit France, which Secretary del Rosario said could  happen early next year. 

For his part, Secretary del Rosario invited Minister Fabius to the Philippines for the next round of political consultations, and also for the French Minister to be able to renew his acquaintance with the Philippines.

Secretary del Rosario was accompanied by Philippine Ambassador to France, Cristina G. Ortega, and DFA and Philippine Embassy officials.  Minister Fabius was joined by French Ambassador to the Philippines, Gilles Garachon, and other Quai d’Orsay officials.

Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.