President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has lauded the French government's plans to set up nonstop flights between Manila and Paris, as well as to strengthen the scholarship programs for Filipino students. Marcos was briefed about France's intentions when outgoing French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz paid him a courtesy call at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday. Boccoz informed Marcos that the negotiations for the direct flights between the two countries are already 'in progress' and would be realized 'in the near future.' She also noted that the French government is working on promoting its student exchange or scholarship programs to encourage more 'gifted' and 'dynamic' Filipino students to study in Paris. 'It is also something that we're really promoting, to have more students in all areas in Science, in Engineering and Technologies and all of the areas,' Boccoz said during the farewell call, as quoted by the Presidential Communications Office in a news release on Wednesday. 'And the young generation is so dynamic in this country and I'm sure there'll be many, many opportunities to increase the relationship in all those areas and to go to the next step of our relation.' Marcos thanked Boccoz for her role in improving diplomatic ties and fostering cooperation between the two nations. He expressed optimism that Boccoz's successor would continue what she has started in the Philippines. 'It is something new for our two countries to have these relationships now. I'm sure that there's something that will grow rapidly within the next two years. Those are the things that I think we can merge. I think we can make a good start,' he said. Marcos said he hoped Boccoz had good memories of the Philippines, assuring her that she is warmly welcome to visit the country again. Boccoz assumed her role as French Ambassador to the Philippines on Feb. 10, 2021 and will conclude her diplomatic mission in Manila this month. She helped increase the levels of cooperation between the two countries in various fields, including energy, green energy, food security, and climate change issues. She was also among the first to visit Surigao del Norte, Surigao City, and Siargao in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette, mobilizing support from her country to provide immediate assistance to the affected communities. Before her assignment in the Philippines in 2021, Boccoz served as assistant director general and special envoy of the director general at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva from 2017 to 2020. The Philippines and France formally established diplomatic relations on June 26, 1947 with the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries by then vice president Elpidio Quirino and then French foreign minister George Bidault. The two countries commemorated the 75th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations last year. In terms of trade and investment, France is the 18th trading partner of the Philippines from 2021 to 2022 after its total trade went up from USD1.5 billion to USD1.8 billion. France remains the Philippines' fifth biggest agri-export partner in 2021 and the fourth agri-import source among European Union member states. It is also one of the Philippines' biggest sources of Official Development Assistance, particularly in the fields of telecommunications, energy, transportation, environment, health, and disaster management.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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