FRANCE sees the Philippines as a prospective investment hub in Asia, rich with economic potential, an official said.

French Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (FCCP) president Cyril Rocke said the FCCP is out to promote its members’ interests in the country and “create closer relationships” with the Philippine business community.

“The standard of living in the Philippines is increasing, leading to improved consumption and investment opportunities across the board,” he noted in a discussion last Wednesday about the current trade situation between France and the Philippines.

Rocke continued that in order to understand the country’s edge and competence, new investors have to realize that the Philippines has emerged from a dark economic stage through its people’s optimistic outlook, hard work and perseverance.

He described French investment in the Philippines as a network of industries with strong movements in sectors of business process outsourcing, infrastructure, health care, pharmaceuticals, beauty, wellness and food.

Among the French companies and brands in the Philippines are gasoline station Total, construction materials provider Lafarge, cosmetic products L’Oréal and Maybelline, apparel brand Lacoste, energy management specialist Schneider Electric, call center Teleperformance and electronic control system supplier to airports Thales.

The FCCP, with its headquarters in Manila comprising 135 members, is working closely with the Makati Business Club (MBC) to reactivate the Philippines-France council.

They don’t need to open an office in Cebu yet because the French community is not yet big enough in the south, but the chamber has a partnership with the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) to help it serve the regions outside Luzon.

Rocke mentioned that the French population in the Philippines is about 1,500.

Culture, education

FCCP is promoting the image of both countries through aggressive approaches in culture

and education, with assistance from MBC and the France Business Council (FBC).

The first and largest international exhibition of Philippine pre-colonial arts is happening on April 8 in a Parisian museum.

To be graced by historical objects and artifacts from Metropolitan and Ayala Museum in Manila and from private collectors in and outside the Philippines, the event aims to create a different perspective of Philippine culture in France.

Rocke said a small replica of the exhibit organized by FCCP will follow, tentatively set in the Ayala Museum.

FCCP is also looking forward to the French Week in Manila from June 17 to 22 and a fruitful celebration of Philippine-France diplomatic relations on June 26.

Meanwhile, exchange programs between France and the Philippines are ongoing in the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

According to Rocke, a significant portion of French fresh graduates are deciding to stay and build a phase of their careers in the Philippines.

Although there’s a bright future for foreign investments in the Philippines, Rocke highlighted problems such as a slow decision-making process and corruption in the government as limitations that, unless addressed, may discourage prospective investors.

Rocke proposed that the Philippines push for eco-tourism, a unique attraction to French travelers.

“Keep your cities and beaches clean, fight pollution and take care of your rich environment. If you want to be attracting, you also have to be protecting,” Rocke challenged.