‘Marching in lockstep’

The delegation ‘actually impressed the Davos attendees’ as the President coming with his official, economic managers and the country’s top businessmen showed ‘a united front to the entire world.’

Before flying back to Manila Friday from Switzerland at the close of the World Economic Forum held from 16 to 20 January, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addressed allegations that his delegation to Davos was too large and that it cost a lot of taxpayers’ money.

The claim was a non-sequitur, the President told journalists gathered for a briefing at Hyatt Regency Hotel where moments earlier he roused Filipinos to frenzied shouts of “BBM, BBM” during a meet-and-greet that mimicked one of his campaign sorties in 2022.

The President said he wanted to give overseas Filipino workers who came to Zurich from all over Switzerland like Lucerne and Geneva, as well as from outlying European countries, a taste of how he brought before Filipinos back home his message of unity.

Facing the media, Mr. Marcos did not let the issue of his entourage allegedly having too many hangers-on take away the luster of his whirlwind WEF appearance that had him, at times, meeting two groups of people and then attending an official program before lunch.

Mr. Marcos was more exasperated or maybe annoyed when he said his delegation was as big as needed by what he had hoped to accomplish in accepting an invitation from WEF to attend its first in-person summit since the start of the pandemic.

“Well, the delegation was large. But half of it was private. They came here on their own. They stayed in their own places. They made their own arrangements, although they are technically part of the delegation,” he said.

“So the delegation essentially just consisted of the Cabinet secretaries, myself, the Speaker, and of course the staff that supports them. That’s what you’ve seen because it’s — we don’t need — we didn’t fill it up. We don’t have that many people — that the government is paying for,” he said in English and Filipino.

With regards to the plane, he explained that no matter how many people were allowed to board, the government would still pay the same. “And we try to be complete. When is the next chance we will get to speak to the chief executive officers of the top Fortune 100 companies in a matter of two days?”

The President explained that whenever he had to talk to someone, whether he or she, be they in government or the private sector of other countries, he needed to have his secretaries with him. In turn, the secretaries needed to have their support staff, he added.

“So if you haven’t done it in two days, you haven’t done it. So that’s why we tried to make sure that whatever comes up, we’re ready to process it, we’re ready to negotiate, we’re ready to do what needs to be done,” Mr. Marcos pointed out.

Indeed, the plane had empty seats, allowing some members of the media who hitched a ride on the chartered flight — Philippine Airlines Flight PR 001 — the luxury of raising the armrest of three seats to sleep lying down even in the economy cabin.

Asked why Speaker Martin Romualdez had to be in Davos, Marcos said it was a question that was easy to answer. Romualdez and another Davos attendee in Senator Mark Villar have had to be on hand so the President can have legislators explaining the policy directions of his administration as supported by Congress.

“Let’s say you talk to a potential investor, and he’d say your laws are not good, et cetera, et cetera. So at least we have the legislators here who can say: Well, we can do something about it or no, that is important to us that we maintain it,” the President said, adding “legislation is an important part of what we are doing, so there’s always a legislator.”

As for former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Marcos said he’s “lucky to have her on board,” without bothering to explain why because it’s already common knowledge among Filipinos that she has always been a proponent of global trade and multilateralism.

For Romualdez, the delegation that came “actually impressed the Davos attendees” as the President coming with his official, economic managers and the country’s top businessmen showed “a united front to the entire world.”

“So people took notice of it and said that the Philippines is back, we are open for business, we are here listening and we are inviting everyone to see why the Philippines will be the best destination to invest. Well, you know for critics, it’s very, very nice to hear their questions and queries but the Executive and the legislature are working and walking and marching in lockstep, we are together. When the government works, it’s not just the Executive. We in the legislature are here to support it.”

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