POSTSCRIPT / May 15, 2022 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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China, US compete in greeting Marcos

The big-power rivalry between the United States and China appears to have sped up the recognition abroad of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as the majority winner in the May 9 presidential election.

Three days after the polls, when returns showed that he had clinched a clear majority, China and the US rushed congratulations to Marcos who is coming back to claim the seat in Malacañang that his late father abandoned at the height of the 1986 People Power Revolt.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, joins supporters in a rally in Manila. Early returns show him headed for a majority win as president. Photo: AFP / Ted Aljib

US President Joe Biden called Marcos on Thursday after early tallies showed him having garnered some 58 percent of the estimated 65.7 million votes cast nationwide.

The White House said: “President Biden underscored that he looks forward to working with the President-elect to continue strengthening the US-Philippine alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the fight against COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, promoting broad-based economic growth, and respect for human rights.”

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said that Marcos told Biden, “We are prepared to work with you, Mr. President, and continue to strengthen our relationship.”

By coincidence, Biden was then hosting a two-day summit meeting with the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). As President Duterte could not attend,  Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr stood in for him.

The day before, the US embassy in Manila said: “Our special partnership is rooted in a long and deeply interwoven history, shared values and interests, and strong people-to-people ties.  As friends, partners, and allies, we will continue to collaborate closely with the Philippines to promote respect for human rights and to advance a free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.”

Before Biden’s call, Chinese President Xi Jinping also called Marcos to congratulate him, assuring him that their countries are “partners through thick and thin”.

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian forwarded Xi’s full message to Marcos in a letter that called him “the 17th President of the Philippines.”

Xi’s letter said: “I attach great importance to the development of China-Philippines relations and am willing to establish a good working relationship with President-elect Marcos, adhere to good neighborliness and friendship.”

* * *

Marcos’ late father visited Beijing in June 1975 to open diplomatic relations with China. Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong himself received Marcos Sr. and then first lady Imelda Marcos, and treated them and their large entourage to a state banquet.

In the world community, especially in this corner of Asia, the lead of the big powers matters. After the calls of Xi and Biden, congratulations from other foreign leaders followed. Their messages helped cement Marcos’ early psychological hold on the presidency.

As of Thursday, with 98.35 percent of returns processed, Marcos tallied over 31 million votes. That is twice the votes President Duterte won in 2016 and more than double that of Marcos’ closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.

With Marcos’ commanding lead, his camp extended to his opponents and critics a hand of reconciliation and called for cooperation for the success of his incoming administration.

“For those who are protesting, please stop pushing for your agenda for hostility among Filipinos. We are not enemies,” Marcos’ spokesman said on TV.

Robredo had said they would ask independent experts to validate the results of the elections in view of reported cheating and irregularities, including the malfunction of some 1,800 vote-counting machines that had disrupted voting in some precincts.

The poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting  (PPCRV) gave assurance, however, that the physical returns from the precincts that they had processed matched those that were received electronically.

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COMPARATIVE DATA: The Philippines and the US marked last year the 75th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. Opened later, ties with China have flourished during the 47 years from the elder Marcos’ martial rule to the present.

Despite Manila’s pivot toward Beijing announced by President Duterte during his first visit to China in October 2016, the US remains an important trading partner and investment source for the Philippines.

Last year, the US was the country’s third major trading partner with a total of $19.6 billion, the second top export market with $11.85-billion export sales, and the fifth top import source with $7.75-billion worth of imports.

China is the Philippines’s top trading partner at $38.4 billion (19.9 percent of the country’s total trade) and ranked first for both exports at $21.48 billion and imports at $26.8 billion.

The US ranked second in terms of net foreign direct investments in 2021 with $150.1 million and remains an important investment source for the Philippines in such areas as electronics, transport and storage, administrative and support services, manufacturing, real estate, and IT-Business Process Management.

In terms of total Investment Promotion Agencies-approved foreign investments for 2021, the US ranked 5th at P3,823.9 million. China ranked 7th at P2,144 million.

The US also remained the major source of money and remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers in 2021 totaling $12,736 million.

More remittances in 2021 came from China (mainland), $24 million (rank 43rd); Taiwan $841.9 million (rank 8th); Hong Kong, $722 million (rank 11th)’ and Macau, $93 million (rank 29th).

With the reopening of the country to foreign visitors in 2021, the biggest number of tourist arrivals, at more than 39,000, came from the US. China ranked third with 15,000 arrivals.

More than four million Filipino Americans live in the US, and almost 300,000 US citizens reside in the Philippines, including a large number of US military veterans.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 15, 2022)

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