BBM meeting world leaders in U.S. sojourn

Whether or not it’s going to be brought up, we will have to see about that one. But for the moment, we’re relying (on) and monitoring from the Department of Migrant Workers

September 16, 2022

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will meet several world leaders for bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday disclosed.

In a pre-departure briefing, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Kira Christianne Danganan-Azucena said “requests are coming in from many sides” but DFA cannot disclose details as of yet regarding the number of confirmed meetings.

“What I can say at this point is that we do have a number of confirmed meetings at the leaders’ level involving the president but we are not inclined to disclose at this point who he will be speaking to,” she said.

Azucena noted that since heads of state are involved, the final schedules and even whether the meeting would take place in the first place are often “pinned down very close to the date.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Jose Victor Chan-Gonzaga said that the Philippine government is in consultation with the White House and the National Security Council in Washington DC for the possible bilateral meeting between Marcos and US President Joe Biden.

Marcos will deliver the Philippine statement at the 77th UNGA on 20 September.

He would also join 152 other heads of state and government during the high-level general debate.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said the President’s speech will focus on the Philippine government’s interventions.

This includes international cooperation, which he believes would fast-track the country’s recovery from the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

“In this case, the President’s primary objective and in fact, his main policy in his governance, in this administration, is economic recovery. And so, all activities, particularly even those presidential activities, are related to this particular vision,” Angeles said in a Palace press briefing.

“So, we are going to expect that his speech will be relating to how the Philippines will be recovering from this pandemic and where he intends to take this, and how he will do so in cooperation with other states,” she added.

In the same press briefing, Angeles said the Palace is waiting for the Department of Migrant Workers’ comment on reports that hundreds of Filipino employees have been stranded at a US military base on Diego Garcia island due to a wage dispute between a major American contractor and the Philippine government.

Wage rate

A report from The Washington Post stated that Filipino officials had earlier asked the employer, Kellogg Brown & Root, to raise the workers’ wages to meet US federal minimum wage rate.

Allegedly, the company is “pressuring employees to continue working at current wages.”

According to the report, KBR allegedly “emotionally blackmailed” the government by allegedly canceling all charter flights from the island to the Philippines since January.

KBR vice president of global marketing and communications Philip Ivy, however, denied the allegations.

Angeles said she has no word whether President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would raise this during his trip to the US this month.

“Whether or not it’s going to be brought up, we will have to see about that one. But for the moment, we’re relying (on) and monitoring from the Department of Migrant Workers,” Angeles told reporters.

“It’s still in the hands of Sec. Toots. We will wait for her report. Malacañang relies heavily on the people who are directly involved on this one,” she added.

KBR has 1,200 employees, who are mostly Filipino workers at Diego Garcia, offering construction services.

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