POSTSCRIPT / September 4, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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‘Formula’ that BBM found was F1 racing

President Ferdinand Marcos should be back by now from his secretive second trip to neighboring Singapore supposedly in search of the elusive “formula” for solving the socio-economic woes of the Philippines.

Malacanang says that President Marcos' first trip to Singapore was successful, yet he had to go on a secretive second trip to "affirm" the deals supposedly sealed already. Photo: CNN Philippines

While Malacañang was mum on the weekend jaunt of Marcos and his congressman-son, their trip raised a storm of criticism over the unnecessary expense and their lack of empathy for Filipinos reeling from the effects of a typhoon, the pandemic, and the economic mess.

The trip’s negative aspects were magnified by reports that father and son slipped to Singapore just to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix international race, an event that Filipinos stuck in monstrous traffic jams back home cannot appreciate.

But if Marcos’ unannounced trip was not really prompted by an interest in Formula 1 racing, what is it in Singapore that may have compelled him to slink back within a month of the first “successful” visit?

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles did not make sense stretching the statement of Singapore’s labor minister to make the Grand Prix races fit the Palace narrative on the father-son tandem hopping on an executive jet for the F1 race.

Without presenting proof, the Press Secretary claimed that Marcos’ second trip was “productive” in the same facile manner she described the Sept. 5-6 state visit as “successful”. If it were so, why the need for that hurried followup?

The statement of Singapore’s labor minister actually focused on the F1 races with the conversations with Marcos and other VIP visitors mentioned in passing. Yet Angeles made it appear in her PR-vlogger style that bilateral undertakings were at the core of the meetings.

She claimed in Filipino that Marcos returned to Singapore to “affirm” deals made during his earlier state visit. The busy President himself had to fly to Singapore again just to do that? At such great expense and while the country was still recovering from a devastating typhoon?

In the continued absence until yesterday of basic information from Malacañang on the second trip, we refer to a Twitter post of Gerry Cacanindin @GerryCacanindin:

“Allegedly, the presidential jet, PAF RPP1, the 1 billion-peso Gulfstream G280 was monitored on Flight Radar flying to Singapore this weekend. Average operating cost: $5,343 per hour. Flight time to Singapore: 3 hours one way. Total cost two-way: $32,058 or ₱1.885M”.

That’s just the cost of flying the Gulfstream G280, if it was indeed used and the figures cited are correct. Also, with the plane being government property, who paid for the attendant expenses?

Malacañang reported earlier that in the first visit, Marcos received investment pledges worth $6.54 billion for such projects as electric tricycles, floating solar technology, and a data center. These could generate 15,000 new jobs, it added.

Haven’t they learned from experience that such pledges – like the $24 billion in aid, grants and investments that then President Duterte was promised in his first visit to Beijing in 2016 when he announced his “separation” from Uncle Sam – remain mere expressions of intentions?

• What LKY said of Marcos Sr.

What interests do the Marcoses have in Singapore that would send a super-busy neophyte president returning posthaste to that international banking hub?

Recall that on Dec. 30, 2013, Singapore’s Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Philippine National Bank to hold in trust $16.8 million (₱745.9 million, based on the $1 = ₱44.4 rate on that day) and £4.2 million ($6.7 million or ₱298.3 million at then £1 = $1.6).

The funds totaling $23.5 million (₱1.05 billion) were alleged to be ill-gotten wealth that the elder Marcos was accused of depositing in the Singapore branch of the German bank WestLB. Is the account still there and requiring personal updating?

Aside from the Philippine government, those who made claims to that account were victims of human rights abuses under Marcos’ martial law regime, as well as some foundations and corporations.

Checking databases on Marcos and Singapore, we again came upon the article in Esquire Philippines published Oct. 6, 2021, citing recollections of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, in his book “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story”.

Lee Kuan Yew died in 2015, but his legacy lives on in Singapore. (He and the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. served at around the same time.) Incumbent Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is his eldest son.

Parts of the Esquire article, which may be relevant to the ongoing discussion, said:

In Chapter 18: Building Ties with Thailand, the Philippines, and Brunei of his autobiography, LKY recounts his pleasant state visit to the Philippines in Marcos’ early years in office, calling him and his wife Imelda gracious hosts. But his opinions began to change after Benigno Aquino’s assassination in 1983.

In his book, LKY focused on the economic and financial issues faced by the Philippines during that time, including the $25 billion owed to foreign banks, which stopped all loans to the Philippines after Aquino’s very public killing.

“He (Marcos) sent his minister for trade and industry, Bobby Ongpin, to ask me for a loan of US$300 – $500 million to meet the interest payments,” wrote LKY. “I looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘We will never see that money back.’”

In 1984, LKY met with Marcos again, this time in Brunei where LKY noticed the dramatic and sickly changes in Marcos. When the two were alone, they discussed loans, and LKY shared his frank advice to the soon-to-be-deposed president.

“As soon as all our aides left, I went straight to the point, that no bank was going to lend him any money. They wanted to know who was going to succeed him if anything were to happen to him; all the bankers could see that he no longer looked healthy,” wrote LKY. “Singapore banks had lent US$8 billion of the US$25 billion owing. The hard fact was they were not likely to get repayment for some 20 years. He countered that it would be only eight years. I said the bankers wanted to see a strong leader in the Philippines who could restore stability.”

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