Noy to visit Paris, Rome, Vatican
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - November 26, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Despite security concerns triggered by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, President Aquino is embarking on a three-state European trip next week to strengthen diplomatic ties and support a binding agreement on climate change.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Maria Cleofe Natividad said the President will visit the French capital, Rome in Italy and Vatican City from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5.

Aquino will be in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1 to attend the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21).

Delegates of the conference aim to craft a binding agreement that will limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius.

Natividad said Aquino is also scheduled to deliver keynote remarks during the Climate Vulnerable Forum. The Philippines is chairman of the forum, which consists of countries prone to natural disasters.

“It will be a capstone opportunity for the President to highlight its climate change accomplishments and to support the crafting of a new climate change agreement that is effective and equitable and that, most especially, will help the climate vulnerable communities,” Natividad said.

She said the Paris attacks that claimed the lives of 130 people last Nov. 13 did not deter Aquino and other world leaders from attending the COP 21.

“The President did not waver in spite of this horrific event. The President is even more determined to go to Paris to attend the COP21 as a show of solidarity and support for the French government,” she said.

“All the other leaders, as far as we know, who have been invited and have indicated their participation, none of them has backed out from their attendance,” she added.

Natividad said the foreign affairs department has been working closely with the French embassy to ensure the safety of the Filipino delegates to the climate conference.

“All security measures have been taken very carefully and seriously by the French government to ensure the safety of all the participants to the high-level event,” she said.

The Philippines has been considered a “poster boy” of the impact of climate change, with about 20 typhoons visiting the country every year.

Extreme weather events and climate change have been linked to greenhouse emissions produced by human activities. Philippine officials are hopeful that the Paris meet will yield an agreement that will significantly reduce emissions and provide help to countries prone to climate risks.

Aquino will also meet with various executives of French, Irish and Japanese companies to boost trade and investment partnerships and to discuss cooperation on health.

The President will also witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Bases Conversion Development Authority and the French organization Vivapolis for the development of the Green City project in Clark, Pampanga.

Aquino will fly to Rome on Dec. 1 for a three-day visit that aims to boost diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Italy.

Aquino will meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella and might also speak with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Natividad said Aquino’s meeting with Mattarella would focus on strengthening of bilateral relations in time for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Italy.

“It will provide an opportunity for both sides to further improve bilateral trade and investments and the President will as well witness the signing of the air services agreement,” she said.?The two leaders will also discuss Italy’s participation in the Mindanao peace process through its assistance to the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program and the Philippines-Italy Debt for Development Swap Program.

Aquino will also witness the signing of an air services agreement, which is expected to benefit Filipino workers and investors coming from Italy.

The President will proceed to Vatican City on Dec. 4 for the last leg of his Europe trip.

He will have a private audience with Pope Francis, leader of the world’s more than one billion Catholics.

“This is an opportunity for the President to thank the pope, as well as also to discuss with His Holiness the construction and rehabilitation efforts in Tacloban, of which the pope has shown much keen interest,” she added.

The President will also witness the unveiling and the blessing of a mosaic sculpture of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, and later meet with the Filipino priests and pilgrims at the Vatican.

Meanwhile, members of the Philippine delegation to the climate conference in Paris are expecting long days and nights during the negotiations, which they admit will not be easy due to some ticklish issues.

Climate Change Commission Assistant Secretary Joyceline Goco said several meetings would be held to thresh out the issues of a draft agreement designed to reduce emissions and to limit global warming.

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