‘Resolve conflicts peacefully’

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on 20 September 2022 (Photo from the Office of the Press Secretary)

NEW YORK CITY — When solving conflicts between nations, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. underscored the need to adhere to international laws and pointed out the power of the leaders to make a change in the world.

In his speech at the high-level general debate of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, USA, the Philippine president emphasized that it is the intent of the international organization to “resolve” differences “through peaceful means.”

Marcos spoke with confidence during his 20-minute speech, careful and committed in every word that he utters, almost sounding like he was announcing an executive order.

The tone of his voice commanded attention — one that leaves a mark on his fellow heads of state.

He was the 19th speaker for Tuesday’s debate after Honduras President Iris Xiomara Sarmiento. Every President was given a schedule to deliver their speeches.

For the general debate, 35 world leaders were scheduled to deliver their speeches on 20 September, while 37 world leaders were given on 21 September.

While others utilized the platform to air the grievances of their people, Marcos made use of the opportunity to express that the Philippines is seeking to thrive in peace and present its plan for the continued survival of the global community.

He introduced the Philippines, not as a nation needing help, but as a capable partner whom you rely upon as you work towards public welfare.

Citing the Manila Declaration of 1982 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Marcos reminded world leaders that these international orders “provide useful guidance for our time.”

“By reinforcing the predictability and stability of international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, we provided an example of how states should resolve their differences: through reason and through right,” Marcos said.

“These two contributions provide useful guidance for our time. For amidst the challenging global tides, an important ballast stabilizes our common vessel.  That is, our open, inclusive, and rules-based international order that is governed by international law and informed by the principles of equity and of justice,” he explained.

Marcos also stressed the power of the leaders to move and shape the transformation they desired for their nations.

“The future beckons and we can embark upon that journey as single nations or as a world in harmony. I say let the challenges of one people be the challenges for all nations, and in that way, the success of one will be a success for us all,” he said.

“The peoples of the world look to their leaders, to us, to make into reality these aspirations for our future. We must not fail them. And if we stand together, we will not fail them. If we stand together, we can only succeed.”

He reiterated his position that the Philippines will continue to “be a friend to all and an enemy of none.”

Manila has a long-standing maritime dispute with Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

Despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling in favor of the Philippines, the country continues to be locked in a maritime dispute with China.

Beijing lays claim to over 80 percent of the South China Sea, including the WPS which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Income

Meanwhile, the President is confident that the Philippines can become an upper-middle-income economy in the first year of his presidency.

“In these past three decades, Filipinos have achieved significant strides on our path to sustainable development. Despite the challenges of the pandemic and the global economic upheavals, we remain on track to reach upper middle-income status by next year,” he said.

“With steady investment in food security, public health, education, and other social services, we expect to become a moderately prosperous country by 2040. I am confident that we will achieve this vision,” he added.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan has earlier claimed that the Philippines can become an upper-middle-income country by 2024 if the current economic growth is sustained.

An upper-middle-income country has a gross national income per capita of between $4,096 and $12,695, according to the World Bank.

The GNI per capita of the Philippines was $3,640 as of 2021.

Marcos is aiming to reduce poverty incidence to a single digit in the country, which he believes can be done through his eight-point socio-economic agenda.

He acknowledged that the labor system will be affected as technology continue to evolve throughout time.

“The diffusion of cutting-edge technology across the economy is promising, but it could come at a cost. Our development agenda must consider the possible displacement of human labor as a result of advances in automation. We must prepare our economic structures for this. We should start building the necessary supports for those sectors affected,” he said.

‘Asian hate’

The Philippine leader called for the elimination of racism and Asian hate, vowing to accelerate the implementation of a human rights joint program with the UN.

“We still dream of an end to the disturbing incidents of racism, of Asian hate, of all prejudice,” he said.

The Philippines-United Nations Joint Programme on Human Rights, he said, is an example of a constructive approach that “puts our people, not our politics, at the center of this work.”

“It provides a model for revitalizing the structures that facilitates solidarity between the United Nations and a sovereign duty-bearer,” he added.

The said program seeks to affirm the country’s commitment to human rights, the importance of free democratic space for civil society, as well as the principle of international cooperation.

In his speech, the chief executive said the challenges today are “as consequential as those that faced us seventy-seven years ago” when the UN was founded.

“We are, indeed, at a watershed moment; one that requires a re-founding of these, our United Nations,” Marcos said.

“The world is ready for a transformation. It is up to us as leaders of our nations to move and shape that transformation.”

The country is one of the original 51 charter members that created the United Nations in 1945.

Marcos called on member states to help each other amid pressing issues worldwide, including climate change and food security issues.

“I say let the challenges of one people be the challenges for all nations. And in that way, the success of one will be a success for us all,” he said.

Security Council

Marcos appealed for support from the member states to elect the Philippines as a member of the UN Security Council, citing the country’s success in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“The peace that we have forged after many decades of conflict among warring factions and clansmen demonstrates that unity is possible even in the most trying circumstances,” he said.

For Marcos, a credible and solid foundation for self-government was a result of inclusive dialogue involving all stakeholders, including women, youth, faith leaders, and civil society.

The Philippines, he noted, builds partnerships for peace and development through dialogue, including through inter-faith and inter-religious dialogue, especially through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“In the face of great diversity, we believe that partnerships form the bridge to unite all of us in promoting peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region,” he added.

Marcos also raised the need to create a reformed and more inclusive security council and an empowered general assembly that can hold the council to account.

He likewise cited the importance of equipping nations, especially developing countries, with the tools needed to “navigate the uncharted waters of this century.”

He appealed to the world leaders to be united and support the reduction of the global stockpile of nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear weapons continue to pose an existential threat despite our efforts to build norms that resoundingly prohibit them. We must reject the notion of deterrence and remain committed to decreasing the global stockpile of these weapons. At the same time, we must also address the scourge of the proliferation of all weapons, be they small arms, light weapons, or improvised explosive devices,” he said.
The chief executive called for stronger cooperation on climate change, agriculture, and food security.

Marcos described climate change as the “greatest threat affecting our nations and peoples.”

“There is no other problem so global in nature that it requires a united effort, one led by the United Nations. The effects of climate change are uneven and reflect a historical injustice. Those who are least responsible suffer the most,” he said.

Marcos, who lamented the Philippines’ situation as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change impacts, called for stronger cooperation and accountability in climate change frameworks.

“The Philippines, for example, is a net carbon sink. We absorb carbon dioxide than we emit. And yet, we are the fourth most vulnerable country to climate change,” he said.

On the sidelines of the UNGA, Marcos met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and discussed climate action initiatives.

Earlier, Guterres appealed to rich countries to tax windfall profits of fossil fuel firms, saying that the collections can be used to help the countries adversely affected by the climate crisis.

Obligations

Marcos called on industrialized countries to immediately fulfill their obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, provide climate financing and technology transfer for adaptation for the most vulnerable, and developing countries to lead by example.

“We accept our share of responsibility and will continue to do our part to avert this collective disaster,” Marcos said. “This threat knows no borders, no social class, nor any geopolitical consideration. How we address it will be the true test of our time.”

Marcos also raised the need to invest in food security to ease a growing global food security crisis.

“We need to take concrete steps towards modern and resilient agriculture. Food is not just a trade commodity or a livelihood, it is an existential imperative and a moral one. It is the very basis of human security,” the President added.

Marcos said the Philippines looks forward to forging cooperation with the UN and its key partners to boost agricultural productivity and food security.

“To attain food self-sufficiency and security, we are providing innovative solutions and financial support to farmers and fisherfolk to adopt new technologies and connect to national and global value supply chains,” he said.

Marcos is in the US for a six-day work visit. He made the speech at the UNGA on his third day in the US on Tuesday, 20 September (New York time) at around 4 p.m.

His arrival to the western country was met by both a warm welcome and protest by groups of Filipinos in New York City.

One group marched around the streets of New York City with an effigy of the President and placards stating that Marcos and Vice President Sara Z. Duterte must be “held accountable.” The group expressed their disapproval of the tandem, calling them “fascist dynasties.”

Support

On the other hand, another group clad with red T-shirts, gathered in an area close to the UN headquarters to express their support for Marcos and Duterte. Carrying a Philippine flag and waving flaglets, the group continuously chanted “Marcos-Duterte!”

Security protocols were strictly enforced in New York City, with the policemen guarding every street leading to the UN headquarters at 42nd Street in Manhattan.

To ensure the safety of the heads of states attending the UNGA, roads surrounding the UN headquarters have been closed and heavily barricaded, causing heavy traffic around New York City.

Motorists have been asked to take alternative routes or better leave their vehicles at home and take the subway instead.Policemen and K-9 units have been checking every establishment surrounding the UN headquarters several times a day.

Marcos becomes the first Philippine president to physically attend the UNGA after eight years.

He was accompanied by First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, son Ilocos Norte Representative Sandro Marcos, cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Special Assistant to President Antonio Ernesto F.
Lagdameo Jr., Foreign Affairs Sec. Enrique A. Manalo, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations Ambassador Antonio Manuel R. Lagdameo Sr., and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez.

Following his participation in the UNGA, the President is expected to meet other world leaders for bilateral meetings.


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