OF TREES AND FORESTS
Former Senate President Manny Villar
Being president is a complex and difficult job. The President has a multitude of responsibilities. He is the Chief Executive in that he overseas the entire bureaucracy of the Philippine government. He is the foremost architect of our foreign policy. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. But as President, he has to be kind of a salesman too.
The ability to sell an idea is an important skill for the leader of the country or any politician for that matter. In politics, or more specifically, in a democracy, people compete with their best ideas on how to run the country. Democratic elections are essentially a contest of these often-competing ideas. During the presidential elections of 2022, candidate Bongbong Marcos demonstrated his gift as a communicator and as a salesman. As a presidential candidate, he was selling his idea of unity. He told the people that we have been fighting for so long it is time to unite so we can finally attain progress. And the people liked his idea and voted him into office. That is essentially what an electoral victory means—the people bought into your idea.
Now that he is President, Bongbong has demonstrated his phenomenal skill as salesman-in-chief especially in terms of presenting the country in the global stage. Since he became President, Bongbong has had eight foreign trips most notably to Singapore, Indonesia, the United States, China, Brussels and Davos, Switzerland. More foreign trips are scheduled in 2023.
As President, he is the principal representative of the country, responsible for presenting an image of the country; an image that is attractive to investors from other countries. President Bongbong, in one interview, laid out his principle on this very succinctly: “Magpapakilala muna tayo. Kapag hindi tayo bumiyahe at nagpakita sa mga conference na ‘yan, hindi nila tayo iniisip. Wala sa isipan nila ang Pilipinas.”
The President hit the nail right on the head. These are, in effect, publicity tours, or roadshows, designed to reintroduce the country to the global market. It is a campaign toward brand recognition. I like his phrase “wala sa isipan nila ang Pilipinas,” arguing of course that we need to make sure that the Philippines should be in the minds of investors when thinking about where to put their money and resources. Here, he is not just acting as a salesman but a marketing and advertising person too.
When he started out, President Bongbong clearly set out his priority—the economy. The fact of the matter is that we need to recover our economic losses due to the pandemic and one way to do that is to attract investment. We need to impress upon the minds of foreign investors that we are here, we are a global player, and we have been the fastest growing economy in the region for many years before the pandemic. Our fundamentals are strong and stable. This is the message that the President is selling.
I think that no objective assessment of the first months of his presidency can omit the tremendous job Bongbong has done as salesman-in-chief. He has impressed other world leaders, presented the country in the most positive light, and brought home millions of pledges in investments.
In business, we invest in marketing and advertising to make sure that we can improve brand recognition, increase sales, and create a positive image for the company. The same is true in the realm of the global economy. There are other countries competing with us and we need to put our best foot forward. The world needs to see the Philippines as an economy with robust growth and strong fundamentals thereby enticing potential investors. This is ultimately the job of the President. With the help of his economic managers, I think there is no doubt that the President is doing an excellent job.
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