Strengthening French-Filipino relations

Jewelmer Group Chairman Manuel M. Cojuangco was conferred the Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’ Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor) by the President of the Republic of France officiated by H.E. Mr. Thierry Mathou, Ambassador of France to the Philippines and in Micronesia last July 27, 2017 at the Grand Sunset Pavilion, Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

The Legion of Honor, the highest distinction awarded by the French Government is awarded to individuals who have served France or the ideals it upholds. Moreover, a minimum of 25 years of professional activity with “eminent merits” is required to be considered to become a Chevalier or Knight.

“We have decided to give you this award because in all your endeavors you have this objective to give back to your community, to your nation, to your country,” said Ambassador Mathou to Cojuangco during the awarding ceremony. “Take for example Jewelmer, this exceptional adventure… It’s a successful business where you are the leader of the gold pearl not only in the Philippines but in the world… and you have transformed this activity to give something back to the community. For you, CSR is not an acronym.”

He continues, “I was also impressed with the foundation that you created with Jacques, which is also an example of what a successful businessman can do on the field to not only preserve the environment but to support local and indigenous people’s communities.”

Ambassador Mathou goes on to name the many interactions of Cojuangco with the French throughout the years: From his work with French scientists for a coconut hybridization program in Palawan to his continuous support in their cultural activities both in France and in the Philippines.

Finally, the ambassador talks about Cojuangco’s partnership with French perliculturist and fellow Chevalier recipient Jacques Branellec. “I am very proud to give you this distinction because it is the symbolism of the friendship between France and the Philippines.”

During his speech, Cojuangco thanked his Jewelmer family, his church group, his siblings, and ultimately his parents, “whose personal journey, upon reflection, carried the potential of whatever good my siblings and I were meant to pursue. And tonight is especially significant because their relationship started not in the Philippines, but in Paris where they accidentally but fortuitously met.” Indeed, Cojuangco has been enamored with the French language and culture since his first visit to the country back in 1968, a relationship that continues to this day.

He ends his speech by saying, “For this small work of ours to go along the lines of the French initiative to preserve the environment is no insignificant coincidence for us,” said Cojuangco.

Since it was first established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, there have been 18 other Filipinos who have been inducted into the l’Ordre National de la Légion d’ Honneur. Cojuangco is the 19th to follow in this proud tradition.