Reformed State visits

Notably, the choice of visiting Indonesia and Singapore first showed President Marcos, Jr.’s priority in strengthening relations with countries in the ASEAN.

September 8, 2022

When world leaders travel, they do so with great meaning and purpose. More than the official agenda, importance must be placed on who they will be seeing in between meetings, members of their entourage, and agreements that will be brought back home. Further, there comes a realization of how advanced or developed other countries have become, and how we can better coordinate with foreign neighbors regarding difficult geopolitical issues concerning territories and trade.

I write this column while I am in New York, and I keenly followed the first State visits of President Bongbong Marcos Jr. to Indonesia and Singapore. I humbly mention where I am since New York is a place that was fondly graced upon — an understatement — by former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his wife Imelda during their time. We saw how the elder Marcoses spent a lot of their time abroad, especially in New York, where until now several prominent properties purchased before are still being used (or being talked about) today.

Six years of President Rodrigo Duterte saw a different brand of official foreign visits. Former President Duterte was welcomed like a rockstar by our OFWs and his entourage was rather large. As seemingly compared with that of President Marcos Jr., it appears that we had a more controlled State visit, in terms of contingent and agenda. If it were any indication of the nature of President Marcos Jr.’s future trips will be, it seems that the visits will be more strategic in nature.

One thing observed was the nature of agreements and pledges signed between the leaders of the two countries, particularly in Singapore. The agreements now are broader and more general, without mentioning a specific company or local government. For this ceremony, President Marcos Jr. was represented by members of his Cabinet, as it should be.

Another was the more precise choice of words when it came to the discussion on sensitive matters. On the common concern regarding the territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea, President Marcos Jr. was very diplomatic which was reciprocated by his counterparts. They both spoke about the political situation in Myanmar, our fellow country in the ASEAN, and even the crisis in Ukraine.

Notably, the choice of visiting Indonesia and Singapore first showed President Marcos Jr.’s priority in strengthening relations with countries in the ASEAN. Indonesia is a staunch trading partner and Muslim ally, which sends the right signals to our Filipino Muslim community. On the other hand, Singapore is the recognized economic leader in ASEAN. The Philippines needs allies in its neighborhood, and President Marcos Jr. chose well for his first State visits.

For someone who grew up in Malacañang and was witness to official visits, our beloved President is pressing the right buttons on foreign policy. This begs the question of where he will be going next. I look forward to the day when President Marcos Jr. will make his return here to New York where his parents spent a lot of time in. He has good reason since the United Nations is located here, where he may be invited to speak. To recall, his predecessor shunned the USA and chose to visit Russia and China numerous times. I guess that a US trip is forthcoming, which would rekindle and strengthen our historic ties with the US, although this may come after a year. The signs point toward a more purposeful approach to foreign relations that may bring forth clear immeasurable benefits to our country.

For comments, email him at [email protected]

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