In times of calamities, much is mentioned and written about the help of the United States, Japan, Australia and Taiwan to the Philippines, and we are most grateful to their progressive governments. But little is known about the aid coming from France.
A few years ago, the former French ambassador to the Philippines Oliver Gaussot delivered a speech before Filipino Rotarians on Franco-Philippines relations, which do not get much media attention. In his speech, Gaussot stressed that France has been active in helping the Philippines face its difficulties, whether from devastation from natural calamities or from the foreign debt burden, since France first established its consulate in Manila in 1837. The ambassador said that France had pledged $200 million to the Philippine Assistance Plan, cancelled a Philippine debt amounting to 20 million Francs, instructing that the amount be used instead for Mount Pinatubo victims, and accepted a debt-for-equity swap of $20 million to facilitate investments of French firms in the Philippines.
The French ambassador also asked the Philippine government to be more active in establishing contacts with the European Community. He said the French embassy, in cooperation with the European Commission in Manila, is acting to give more exposure to the Philippines in the European nations and to arouse more economic and political interest in the Philippines.
Gaussot quoted then French President Francois Mitterand who said that after the Filipinos had been visited by natural calamities, "The courage constantly shown by Filipinos, too often the victims of natural calamities, has won the admiration of France."
Today, France continues with its pledge to help the Philippines during natural calamities in many positive ways.
So, who says France is only excellent for its Peugeot and Renault, Guerlain and Givenchy, Bordeaux and Margaux, Beaufort and Roquefort?
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