New French envoy feels at home in PH, excited about potential ties in agriculture, civil nuclear energy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — "It's easy to feel at home," said new French Ambassador to the Philippines Marie Fontanel on her first few weeks on the job during her first interview with CNN Philippines.

Despite coming from a different background within the French government, Fontanel said she is fortunate to be sent to Manila.

Prior to her Philippine assignment, Fontanel served as a former adviser to French President Emmanuel Macron on solidarity, health, and gender equality from 2017 to 2020.

She also served as permanent representative of France to the Council of Europe from 2020 to 2023 in Strasbourg.

"I feel very lucky," Fontanel shared. "I really wanted to be posted in the Philippines and I was very lucky that President Macron gave me this opportunity."

A mother of three children, Fontanel said there are so many similarities between life in Paris and Manila.

"We enjoy the life here so far. It’s like home," she declared. "The Philippines and France have so much in common so it’s easy to feel at home."

Fontanel said that while there are already key cooperation areas between the two countries, she is personally interested in pursuing initiatives that would involve health, women's rights, and gender equality.

"I am a feminist so it’s good that we have an official feminist foreign policy, so it matters to my career," she poited out.

The new envoy arrived in Manila on Aug. 10 and presented her credentials to President Bongbong Marcos on Sept. 20.

France ready to help PH achieve agricultural, renewable energy goals

Agriculture is also a priority area for the Philippines, Fontanel stressed, but she said she was surprised when she found out that the country is importing a lot of products despite being an agricultural country.

"The global agricultural system could be more efficient, and France has expertise in agricultural system and sustainability we do think we have a good cooperation," she said.

Fontanel said France is also capable of assisting the Philippines in shifting to renewable energy sources and even with nuclear energy technology.

"We could partner together to make this transition and France has the capability for civil nuclear energy," she noted. "We will welcome a delegation of Filipinos in November so that we can see what kind of expertise we can work on together."