France-Philippines United Action thanks Ambassador Gilles Garachon for his support.

By July 31, 2015Blog, Slider

The French coordination structure building villages for the victims of typhoon Haiyan bids farewell to H.E. Gilles Garachon who launched the project back in November 2013 and supported its development into a foundation.


After spending three years in the Philippines, H.E. French Ambassador Gilles Garachon will leave the country at the end of the month. The members and partners of France-Philippines United Action (FP-UA), a platform coordinating post-Haiyan rehabilitation projects led by the French business sector, gathered on July 28 to bid their last farewell to the French Ambassador as well as to thank him for his strong support for their projects.


The members of FP-UA all reunited around Ambassador Garachon during an appreciation lunch on July 28 to bid him farewell and thank him for his support.

In fact, the idea of creating a structure in charge of coordinating the relief and rehabilitation initiatives of the French business community after typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines came from the Ambassador himself, just a few days after the disaster in November 2013.

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines and devastated the Visayas region. The cyclone caused catastrophic damage in the islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Northern Negros and Northern Palawan. It was the most powerful and destructive typhoon recorded in modern times and the deadliest in the Philippines’ history, affecting about 14 million people and causing more than 6,000 fatalities.

Assistance from the French private sector, came rapidly in the form of massive donations in cash and kind but crucially, lacked coordination. This is how FP-UA was born.

On November 15, 2013, His Excellency Gilles Garachon summoned representatives of leading French companies, in addition to those from the Conseillers du Commerce Exterieur and the French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, to form a consortium, to encourage optimal allocation of goods, define key evaluation areas, provide various opportunities for involvements, and communicate all these efforts to the public.

Shortly after, on November 27 of 2013, France-Philippines United Action (FP-UA) was created and it was decided that the French Chamber of Commerce would host and manage the structure.

The projects of FP-UA have been focusing on post-disaster rehabilitation by building highly resistant houses for the families who lost their homes to the powerful typhoon.

Three villages are being built right now in the North of Cebu Island; a region that was highly affected by the typhoon.

The first village is a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, which is building 74 disaster-resilient houses as well as a multi-purpose center on a 5,488-square-meter site in Barangay Agujo, Daanbantayan. Specially designed by Architect Ed Florentino, each house can withstand up to intensity 8 earthquakes and 275-300 kilometer-per-hour winds.

The FP-UA is building another 148 houses in Barangay Paypay, also in Daanbantayan, in partnership with the French and the Philippine Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. The permanent houses will have access to safe water, proper sanitation, and electrical power supply, and beneficiary families will be covered by a comprehensive livelihood program.

Both villages will be ready for turnover to the beneficiary families by October this year.

In addition, a third site comprising of 100 houses will soon be developed in Bogo City. Overall, these three projects will benefit more than 1,300 people who have lost their homes to Typhoon Haiyan.

The total budget for these three construction project will exceed 1M EUR thanks to donors including companies such as Total, Lafarge, Schneider, Sanofi, Caisse des Dépôts, Commanderie de Bordeaux, Megacem, Archetype and Cités-Unies France.

The contribution of these companies however does not solely consist in financing the projects as they also constitute the leadership committee of FP-UA and participate in decisions ranging from dealing with construction as well as selecting which projects to endorse. Don Lee, CEO of Lafarge Philippines, led the committee for the year 2013-2014 and Dilip Vaswani, Managing Director or Total Philippines, took over as chairman in January 2015.

All along, FP-UA also benefited from strong support from the French Government with the French Embassy in the Philippines endorsing its actions at every turn.

In January 2015, Ambassador Gilles Garachon took Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, to the sites in Daanbantayan. Mr. Hulot was impressed with the joint efforts initiated by the Filipino-French private community to mitigate the effects of ever-stronger natural events faced by the Philippines due to rising global temperature. A few weeks later, French President François Hollande himself highlighted the achievements of FP-UA during his official visit to the Philippines. He then announced the future conversion of FP-UA into a Foundation of the French Chamber of Commerce.

Group photo with Nicolas Hulot

Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, visited the sites of FP-UA together with Ambassador Garachon in January 25, 2015.


The mission of the French Chamber Foundation, as announced by President Hollande, will be to engage companies to set up or strengthen their CSR & Disaster Responses initiatives as well as fostering partnerships between the members of the French Chamber and NGOs.

« I’m very proud of the development of this meaningful project. It started as a small idea and I’m happy to see that it has now become a sustainable organisation and a soon-to-be foundation. » said Ambassador Gilles Garachon to the FP-UA team on July 28.

He added « Pleasure in life comes from building dynamic and meaningful projects such as this one. I am grateful for this small community of builders. »


Dilip Vaswani (left), Chairman of FP-UA, and Don Lee (right), former Chairman of FP-UA both thank Ambassador Garachon for his support during an appreciation lunch on July 28.

Gilles Garachon will soon leave the Philippines for Thailand where he will continue his duty as ambassador. He leaves behind a stronger French community which, at his call,  came quickly and enthusiastically together after typhoon Haiyan to form France-Philippines United Action. FP-UA which was initially seen as a short to mid term solution to the chaos at the time, has since gone on to receive the personal backing of the French President and will now permanently constitute Garachon’s legacy in the form of a foundation.


Site 1 Site 2 Site 3
Location Barangay Agujo, Daanbantayan, Cebu Island Barangay Paypay, Daanbantayan, Cebu Island Barangay Cayang, Bogo City, Cebu Island
Land Size 5,400 m2 13,500 m2 10,000 m2
Leading Donors Lafarge, Schneider, Commanderie de Bordeaux, Megacem, Archetype, Manille Bienvenue Sanofi, Caisse des Dépôts, Total, French Red Cross Cités-Unies France
Leading NGO Habitat for Humanity French Red Cross, Philippine Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity Habitat for Humanity
Number of homes 74 148 100
Additional Facilities Multi-Purpose Center A Clinic and Multi-Purpose Center Multi-Purpose Center
Total Budget USD 375,000 USD 1M USD 836,500
Progress 74 houses completed, Multi-Purpose Center built. Site dev’ 95%, 80% of houses are constructed, Communal Infrastructures started in July and should be done by Sept. Construction to start in September
Completion October 2015 October 2015 2016