The historic French-Filipino ties

Published May 1, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

Emmanuel Macron has been reelected president of France, becoming the first French leader to win a second term in 20 years.

Macron, a centrist, won 58.5 percent of the votes while his rival far-right Marine Le Pen garnered 41.5 percent. They advanced to the runoff after capturing the first and second place, respectively, among 12 candidates who ran in the first round on April 10.

Political observers noted that Le Pen’s vote has placed the far-right closer to the presidency than ever before and that the recently-concluded election revealed how deeply divided France is right now.
France is a key member of NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, and the G7.

The diplomatic relations between the Philippines and France was established on June 26, 1947 following the signing of a Treaty of Amity in Paris between the two countries. The document was signed by then vice president and foreign affairs secretary Elpidio Quirino and French foreign minister Georges Bidault.
France is our country’s fourth largest trading partner in the European Union after Germany, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and is home to some 200,000 Filipinos.

In 2020, trade between the two countries amounted to $1.03 billion, with $472.33 million worth of exports from the Philippines. The total remittances from overseas Filipinos in France amounted to $47.53 million in 2020.

A quick Google search shows that France is attributed for a number of firsts in Philippine history, like the establishment of the first Diocesan seminary in 1704, the Saint Clement Seminary in Manila; the establishment of a consul in 1824, during the Spanish occupation; and the first country in the world to recognize the government of President Corazon Aquino following the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Incidentally, the last French president who won a second term was President Jacques Chirac, whom we had the privilege of conferring with when we were speaker of the House of Representatives.

President Chirac was a towering figure in France and Europe, politically and physically (he was six feet two inches tall). His political career spanned some 50 years, serving his country as president for 12 years, two-time prime minister, mayor of Paris for 18 years, and Cabinet minister in various capacities. He was also an officer in the French army during the Algerian War.

We remember, with honor and gratitude, receiving in Paris in 2005 from then President Chirac the prestigious French Legion of Honor, the Grand Cross, which was also previously awarded to presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Corazon Aquino, Manuel L. Quezon, foreign minister Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, and press secretary Teodoro Benigno, who used to work for the Agence France Press (AFP) in Manila.

The French Legion of Honor is an order of chivalry established by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is the oldest and highest-ranking medal of honor in France.

We mentioned in this column much earlier that as the co-president of the French Legion of Honor and National Order of Merit Association in the Philippines and with then French ambassadors to Manila Gerard Chesnel and then Thierry Borja de Mozota, we helped rebuild the first Muslim mosque in the Philippines, located in the deep southern Tawi-Tawi.

The mosque was built in 1380, some 141 years before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines in 1521.

We consider the modest project as a symbol of “Christian-Muslim solidarity in a strategic isle of Sulu Sea where Islam began in the Philippines.”

The Christian-Muslim and Interfaith dialogues have become features of the foreign policy of the Philippines, France, and many other countries to reduce the politico-religious conflicts in various parts of the world and to help ward-off the so-called “clash of civilizations.”

On another note, we were delighted to read an article about a 118-year-old French nun who, according to the Guinness World Records, is the oldest living person in the world.

Lucile Randon or Sister Andre, who was born in 1904, has lived through 18 French presidents, 10 Popes, two world wars, two global pandemics, the 1918 Spanish flu and the current Covid-19, and many other historical events.

Sister Andre became the world’s eldest following the death of Japanese Kane Tanaka, who was born in 1903 and died at the age of 119 on April 19, 2022.

Reports say that in 2020, one in every 1,565 people in Japan was over 100 years old, with more than 88 percent of them women.