OF TREES AND FOREST
Former Senate President
President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. just returned from a very fruitful trip to the United States which was highlighted by his first ever one-on-one meeting with US President Joseph Biden and his address before the United Nations General Assembly. In his remarks, the President said that he considered his “trip successful...and overall I am satisfied with the work that we have done.”
It was a busy six-day working visit for the President. He was understandably very elated with his meeting with Filipinos working in the US. One of the things I share with PBBM is our deep appreciation for the courage and hard work of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), many of them are some of the best professionals and working people globally. Truly world-class. I am glad that the meeting with OFWs was one of the first in his agenda. As a side note, the overseas votes overwhelmingly tilted to BBM during the elections so there’s mutual admiration there.
His address before the UN was also very significant as it was the main event of this trip. In his address during the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, the President reiterated the Philippines’ belief in the primacy of the rule of law as well as its commitment to justice and global peace. He also addressed “global issues such as climate change, rising food prices, rapid technological change, the peaceful resolution of international disputes, the need to protect the vulnerable sectors of our society such as migrants, and ending all forms of prejudice."
But for me, the most consequential events of his working visit, the ones that will immediately have an impact on our well-being as a nation was his meeting with President Biden as well as the Philippine Economic Briefing and meetings with investors and American business leaders.
Mark, who was part of the official Philippine delegation for this trip, noted how PBBM’s pitch on the Philippine economy was well received by US businesses and investors. Mark noticed how the business community there were impressed by our economic performance despite its losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other externalities. I think the resiliency of our economy is largely underpinned by the aggressive infrastructure programs implemented during the previous administration which PBBM has vowed to continue.
The meeting with Pres. Biden I believe recalibrated the historic alliance we have with the US. During the presidency of President Rodrigo Duterte, I fully supported his decision to expand foreign relations with China, Russia, and our neighbors in the region. And I think we should continue to do that. But I also believe that we can do that and at the same time reconfigure our relationship with the US.
I am glad that in his meetings, PBBM emphasized “the importance of peace and stability in the region, and the important role of great powers like the United States, so that developing countries like the Philippines can have the space to achieve growth potentials.” This is a demonstration of the President’s deep understanding of geopolitics as well as his passion in promoting the interest of the nation. In my previous column I called it a “balanced diplomacy.” As superpowers fight it out in the international arena we should be able to position ourselves to, as the President said, create a space for growth.
I like the pragmatic direction his administration’s foreign policy is taking. In his speech before the Asia Society in New York, the President forcefully said: "The position that the Philippines takes is that we have no territorial conflict with China,” adding that “what we have China claiming territory that belongs to the Philippines." He noted that this position has been expressed to both Beijing and Washington. In previous remarks, the President has expounded on this when he described our relations with China: “We have our relationship not only on one dimension.”
While President Marcos has maintained that the Philippines will work with everyone in order to “find ways to work to resolve the conflicts that we have,” we should also refocus on other aspects of our relations such as trade, business, culture, and even, military.
One visit, of course, will not solve our problems. Many of the benefits derived from this trip will not be immediately felt, particularly the investment pledges. That is simply not how things work. What is important is that the Chief Diplomat has set the tone, or, planted the seeds, from which we can work on. As the President said his objective was to “get these discussions started,” the next step is to follow through and make sure that the pledges do come in and that those discussions become realities for our economy and our people.