Six months after President Hollande announced the conversion of France-Philippines United Action (FP-UA) into the French Chamber Foundation, the organization has officially been presented to the members of the Filipino-French business community.
On September 9, 2015, the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines announced the creation of its Foundation, which will perpetuate the actions of FP-UA. This launch was made official during a breakfast meeting organized by the French Chamber in partnership with Banco De Oro, Inc. to welcome the French expatriates back to Manila after their summer break.
This announcement comes 6 months after French President François Hollande visited the Philippines in order to build diplomatic momentum ahead of the COP21 Climate Change conference, which will be held in Paris at the end of the year. During his meeting with the French and Filipino business community on February 26, 2015, President Hollande highlighted the work of France-Philippines United Action (FP-UA) and supported its conversion into a full-fledged Foundation of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines. The actions of FP-UA were also witnessed by Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, who visited several French-led initiatives tackling climate change in the country prior to the Presidential visit.
During the breakfast event on September 9 2015, Total (Philippines) Corporation remitted a check of PHP 500,000 to FP-UA in order to support its conversion into a Foundation. This completed the PHP 500,000 that was donated by the Makati Business Club during the visit of President François Hollande in February. Those donations will complete the requirements for the registration process of the Foundation.
The French Chamber Foundation, which will keep the name of France-Philippines United Action, is a platform of French companies in the Philippines led by the French Chamber that was created shortly after typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines on November 8 2013; affecting about 14 million people and causing more than 6,000 fatalities. Its mission was to coordinate French-led relief and rehabilitation initiatives in the aftermath of the typhoon that devastated the islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Northern Negros and Northern Palawan.
A few days after the disaster, His Excellency French Ambassador Gilles Garachon summoned representatives of leading French companies, in addition to the Conseillers du Commerce Exterieur and the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines, to form a consortium, to enable optimal allocation of goods, define key evaluation areas, provide various opportunities for involvements, and facilitate communication within the various stakeholders.
The aim of the newly created Foundation is to ensure the sustainability of the actions undertaken by FP-UA on Cebu Island, in the Visayas region, where it is currently building 3 villages of more than 300 disaster-resilient houses for the typhoon victims. The total donations received by FP-UA for these three construction projects exceeded USD 1.1 million thanks to contributions from French corporate donors members of the French Chamber.
The first village is a partnership with the NGO Habitat for Humanity, which is about to complete the construction of 74 disaster-resilient houses as well as a multi-purpose center on a 5,488-square-meter site in Daanbantayan, barangay Agujo. The companies involved in this project include Lafarge, which spearheaded the project, Schneider, Commanderie de Bordeaux, Megacem, Archetype and Manille Bienvenue. Specially designed by Architect Ed Florentino, each house can withstand up to intensity 8 earthquakes and 275-300 kilometer-per-hour winds.
Another village is also being built in Daanbantayan, barangay Paypay, in partnership with the French and the Philippine Red Cross as well as Habitat for Humanity. Thanks to donations made by Total, Sanofi, the French Red Cross and Caisse des Dépôts, this village will include 148 houses, a multi-purpose center and a clinic.
In addition, the construction of a third site in Bogo City, also in the North of Cebu Island, was announced during the breakfast meeting on September 9, 2015. This village, which main donor is Cités-Unies France, will comprise of 100 houses as well as a multi-purpose center and a basketball court. Habitat for Humanity will be in charge of the construction.
The second anniversary of typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2015, will coincide with the turnover of the first two villages to the beneficiary families.
Overall, these three projects will benefit more than 1,300 people which will not only receive a disaster-resilient home with safe water, proper sanitation, and electrical power supply, but will also be included in a comprehensive livelihood program. In fact, beyond its disaster rehabilitation program, the mission of the French Chamber Foundation will be to encourage French companies to set up and strengthen their CSR programs in the fields of education and health.
All the members and partners of FP-UA reiterated their commitment to the Foundation for the years to come. Since the creation of FP-UA, French companies have governed the structure and participated 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, President and Managing Director of Total Philippines, took over as chairman in January 2015.
The French Chamber Foundation envisions to be a unique and innovative vehicule of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines for strengthening a growing relationship between France and the Philippines through valuable public and private partnership programs.
FP-UA would like to thank all of its company partners and members for their strong support along this transition. Moreover, it would like to emphasise the invaluable commitment of two of its major partners: Lafarge Cement Services (Philippines), which took the lead of the organisation as soon as November 2013 when the typhoon hit and initiated the rehabilitation projects; and Total (Philippines) Corporation which has taken over the chairmanship of FP-UA at the beginning of the year 2015 to continue the actions of the structure as well as turn it into a foundation. FP-UA would not be where it is today without the engagement of these pioneering companies.