Bongbong acquires FM’s presidential acumen

DAVOS, Switzerland — President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Wednesday credited his late father and namesake with preparing him for the presidency of the country whose people forced his family to flee in exile in 1986.

In a one-on-one interview by the former foreign minister of Norway and now World Economic Forum president Børge Brende, Marcos said he had the advantage of having spent years watching his father, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr., at work.

“So I had a very good idea of what it entailed. Now, of course, it’s different from a son watching his dad doing his job as you yourself are doing that job. So, it’s like I’m in the same setting but playing a different role,” he said.

“But at least I know what needs to be done and I have a fair idea about how it used to be done. And so I have models that I can follow, templates that I can follow,” he added.

Marcos said it was simpler during his father’s 21-year presidency that started with his election in 1965 — the geopolitics of nations choosing black or white, or of being an ally of one superpower and the enemy of another.

“For example, when you talk about foreign policy for a country like the Philippines, you choose. You’re with the Americans or you’re with the Soviet Union? That was still the Cold War,” Mr. Marcos said.
As it was in the middle of the Cold War, leaders of nations were forced to pick between America and its democratic allies, including those in Europe like the United Kingdom, or the communist Soviet Union bloc.

He said that didn’t apply anymore as “most leaders and most strategists have a consensus that we should not fall back into that kind of situation where all countries have to choose which side they will be on.”

To rousing applause from the audience, Marcos said: “So when asked which side are you on, I say, well I don’t work for Beijing, I don’t work for Washington DC. I work for the Philippines so I’m on the side of the Philippines.”

“That really translates to a straightforward statement of foreign policy which is that I promote the national interest,” he added.

Brende expressed astonishment that Marcos — in asking his fellow heads of state and investors to become economic partners with the Philippines — had been all over the WEF forums while holding bilateral meetings and giving interviews to the foreign press on the side.

With the conflicting territorial claims of the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea, Marcos drew a parallelism to when his father was chief executive and his family had “quite a history” with Beijing.

As a 16-year-old member of a Filipino delegation to China in 1974, Marcos said they met then-Chairman Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. The next year, Marcos Sr. would set the framework for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.

China has since turned into an economic giant, Marcos said, serving at present as the Philippines’ most important trading partner. “Yes, they are the largest. Right now, they’re our largest trading partner.”

But in terms of foreign direct investments in the Philippines, Singapore is at the top, followed by Japan and Korea.

In Davos, Marcos has preached the gospel of multilateralism, globalization, and the conduct of more vibrant trade among nations amid fears that 2023 would be worse for many countries than 2022, with an economic slowdown and even recession hanging like the sword of Damocles over them.

In contrast, the Philippines expects to sustain a growth of 6.5 percent for the year. Still, Marcos admitted the dawning of an “uncertain world with the post-pandemic global economy.”

Elsewhere in the WEF, the theme of this year’s summit — Cooperation in a Fragmented World — resonated amid a backdrop of economic and geopolitical troubles.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the WEF via video call and blamed Russia for the crash of a helicopter that killed several people, including his interior minister and a child attending school.

Whether the chopper mishap was an accident or not, Zelensky said Russia, for trying to annex Ukraine, was a fault for everything bad happening in his country.

The WEF ends today, Friday, with its critics saying the organization is nothing more than a group of companies trying to push their interests and agendas before world leaders.

One activist in Davos told Daily Tribune on day one of the WEF Monday that the group was more an “additional problem than the provider of solutions it touts itself to be.”

Marcos flies back home to Manila today after a meet-and-greet with the Filipino community. His technocrats have asserted that his appearance at the WEF should reap dividends in investments drawn, jobs created, and companies, like Morgan Stanley, deciding to establish operations and offices in the Philippines.

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