Productive six foreign trips in first six months of Marcos presidency

Envoys and allies under the new administration believe that it is a must for a head of state to travel.

President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos (Photo courtesy of Malacañang)

And so, six months into the presidency, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has made the most out of this task by bringing to larger platforms the Philippines' agenda and visions.

Even when he said he was "traveling too much", Marcos was still compelled to acknowledge and accept invitations from fellow foreign leaders as he believed that there was no better way to communicate the country's agenda and positions on regional and international concerns than to do it in-person.

The President is also convinced that showing up is the "best way to drum up business" for the country. So, he took it by heart and went on to visit six countries in his first six months in office.

Indonesia: The maiden foreign trip

Marcos made his international debut as a head of state in Indonesia in September for his first-ever state visit.

Before embarking on the trip, Marcos repeatedly said that he wanted to first settle down as the 17th Philippine President and deal with pressing domestic issues first. These included assuming the role of Agriculture secretary on a concurrent basis.

In Indonesia, one of his main goals was to lure investments for the agriculture sector, which he achieved after getting Indonesia's commitment to supply fertilizers to the Philippines.

When he returned to the country, the President revealed that he and Indonesian President Joko Widodo "discussed the delimitation of our boundaries respective to our continental shelves which I hope can become a template to resolving conflicting claims."

Singapore, and an orchid named after the Marcoses

Marcos made it a back-to-back foreign trip as he flew from Indonesia to Singapore in September.

Several business meetings and agreements took place during his two-day visit there. The highlight of this trip, however, was the naming of an orchid after the President and First lady Liza Araneta-Marcos—Dendrobium Ferdinand Louise Marcos.

It is a tradition in Singapore to name orchids after visiting dignitaries such as royalties, heads of state and government, and even celebrities.

The so-called “orchid diplomacy” is a gesture of friendship to promote goodwill between Singapore and other countries.

Marcos tagged the back-to-back trips as fruitful and engaging as these yielded $14.36 billion or P804.78 billion in investment pledges.

“These investments if we put it all together value 14.36 billion US dollars or 804.78 billion Philippine pesos. This will support our country’s economic recovery efforts and create more jobs for Filipinos here in our country,” he said upon returning to the country.

Historic USA visit

Marcos' visit to the United States was historic for two reasons.

It was his first trip there since a contempt order was issued against him by a local court, and it was also the first time in 12 years that a Philippine president addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Given his position as a head of state, Marcos enjoys "diplomatic immunity" which allowed him to travel to the US despite the contempt judgment.

President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. (Noel Pabalate)

His visit to the US was, by far, the longest trip he had. He stayed there for six days.

The President described it as "successful" as he was able to accomplish everything he had planned to achieve, and was able to meet world leaders he wanted to, including US President Joseph Biden, Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

One of the highlights of Marcos' stay in the US was ringing the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange from the small balcony of the Trading Floor.

It was also during this event that he had a close encounter with protesters, who later staged a lightning rally inside the Asia Society headquarters just minutes before Marcos’ speech at the New York Stock Exchange.

A "hopeful" Marcos came back to the country after this trip, saying that his working visit in the United States will serve as a “good start” for programs and opportunities under his administration.

“There will be, I believe, good news to share in the next few months, particularly in terms of their plans to expand and further broaden their investment footprint in our country,” he said.

“Our discussion with the US business community affirms the optimism with which international investors view the Philippines today,” he added.

No missed chances in Cambodia

Marcos' trip to Cambodia in November was "interesting" as he was able to meet his fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders and other counterparts outside the region.

He concluded his participation in the 40th and 41st ASEAN summits with no missed chances after several business meetings and bilateral talks.

It was also during this trip that Marcos got invited by World Economic Forum (WEF) Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab to the WEF in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 16 to 20 next year, for which the President already confirmed his attendance.

The Chief Executive said, upon arriving in the Philippines, that it was “quite gratifying” to see that there was “very large consensus” among the ASEAN member states, stressing that they are going through the same issues in food supply, prices of fertilizer and surging oil prices.

He also said that the “most important takeaway” from his trip was that all member states reach a consensus that no country can do it all, they must work together and help each other.

Thailand, and a 'secret weapon'

Marcos' visit to Thailand in November for his maiden participation in the 29th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economic leaders' meeting was the first time his administration made it publicly known that former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was giving him legal advice, particularly in his APEC meetings.

In fact, the former president accompanied Marcos to his first-ever bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of APEC meetings.

Before leaving Thailand, Marcos personally introduced Arroyo to the Filipino community there as his "secret weapon."

"We have an additional secret weapon who came with us—former president GMA," Marcos said in Filipino. "I’m calling her secret weapon because I am the newbie here. I am the new leader so whenever she walks in the meeting, when other leaders see her, they recognize her as their good friend. That makes the discussion easier.

Withstanding sub-zero Brussels

A meeting with King Philippe of Belgium, delivering remarks at several gatherings including the ASEAN-European Union Commemorative Summit, and serving as the ASEAN coordinator in the summits were what went down in the President's trip to Belgium in December, capping his foreign trips this year.

Despite having a hoarse voice and catching cold during his stay in the European country, Marcos was able to amplify potential priority agendas between the two blocs.

He brought to the bigger platform the conversation on the effective application of UNCLOS to address the maritime disputes and geopolitical rivalries in the Indo-Pacific.

He pitched for closer economic cooperation for the two blocs and urged the international community, like what he has been doing in all his overseas engagements, to act against climate change now.

The chief executive dubbed his Brussels trip as "productive", bringing home at least P9.8-billion investment pledge from European firms.

Controversial Singapore trip

While the President had six official trips this year, he also had an "unannounced" trip to Singapore in October, which, he claimed, was an offshoot of his Singapore working trip in September, and a way to "drum up business.''

“They say that playing golf is the best way to drum up business, but I say it’s Formula 1. What a productive weekend!” Marcos then said.

He made clear that he was invited to meet other “business friends” willing to invest in the country.

“It was fulfilling to have been invited alongside several dignitaries and to have met new business friends who showed that they are ready and willing to invest in the Philippines,” he said.

The Palace did not make a formal announcement about the trip and only confirmed it days after.

Fierce on climate change

Aside from calling for solidarity among nations whenever he was given the chance to speak at a wider audience, Marcos also constantly brought up the issue of climate change.

He brought it up during his UNGA speech, and became a constant part of his agenda until his Belgium trip where he even asked the EU to keep extending support to ASEAN and other vulnerable countries like the Philippines.

He always said that climate change was "a race against time" that needs the effort of all nations to fight it.

“The world must get together to fight the effects of climate change and to ensure sustainable development. Climate change threatens to radically transform for the worst many vulnerable ASEAN landscapes,” he said in Belgium.

“There is no problem like climate change that is so global in nature that it requires immediate and united effort. We need to act now. We need to act together. We need to get it right,” the President stressed.

Billions worth of investments

Marcos' foreign trips this year yielded $23.6 billion of investment pledges, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

According to DTI’s year-end report, Marcos’ visits to Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, Cambodia, and Thailand brought billions of pesos in investments as the administration gears toward aggressively attracting more foreign businesses to come to the Philippines.

The trade department also included in its report the recent government export registered and generated investment leads, particularly with the DTI Board of Investments (BOI).

The DTI’s performance report said the BOI and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) had a combined approved investment of P402 billion, which could generate some 54,217 local jobs.

Future trips

Marcos has already at least three trips being lined up for next year.

He is expected to visit China and Davos, Switzerland in January.

It has also been made known earlier that Japan will also welcome the President for a state visit.