POSTSCRIPT / September 20, 2022 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Biden meeting, PEB eclipse UN address

NEW YORK – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. appears to be aiming to do three things in his visit here: tell the world the Philippines is a friend to all, invite US investors and traders to come over, and subliminally ask for fair treatment for the late dictator’s family.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the first day of his visit to New York for the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.. Photo: Facebook/ Bongbong Marcos

Among the items on Marcos’ agenda, we attach more value to a projected meeting with US President Joe Biden (if it pushes through) and the Philippine Economic Briefing than to his delivering a speech today before the 77th United Nations General Assembly.

If no meeting with Biden takes place – an iffy event that was announced without first being confirmed – the expedition with a huge contingent accompanying the President could go down as a costly stateside coming-out party for Marcos.

As for the so-called “general debate” in the UNGA, that is simply the annual program where state representatives read their countries’ statements on issues they consider important to them and to the world.

Reading the statement is normally a chore of a country’s permanent representative to the UN, or its foreign secretary if he is in town, or as in this case of the head of state/government when he decides to read it himself.

It is not a “debate” as we plebeians imagine, where somebody asks the speaker to yield to interpellation and the two tangle with the moderation of the chair. Nor will the exchange descend to the low-level diatribes that enliven a presidential campaign debate.

In short, many spectators see a UNGA address by the president of a middling country, pardon the adjective, as no big deal.

In some cases, a country’s leader/reader could have the disturbing experience of talking to mostly empty seats in the cavernous hall. (It is not unusual then for the staff to “invite” counterparts from “friendly” delegations to occupy their seats.)

Marcos is lucky the media themselves may be curious about how he would acquit himself in a world forum after decades of being in the shadow of his father’s repressive regime. That makes him an object of scrutiny (which means news), without trying.

That was the same “rock star” attention that greeted then-President Duterte whose “reputation” preceded him as he leaped onto the world stage of summits. But soon the celebrity curiosity wore off with the abrasive effects of his coarse language.

Before Marcos departed for New York on Sunday, he said, “I will outline our expectations of the United Nations and the work ahead, the role our country will play and our contributions in strengthening the international system.”

We will soon see if the UN, which has grown from the original 51 founding nations in 1945 to its present 193 member-states will be interested in what the Philippines or the son of a former dictator has to say.

Marcos said he would tell the world “the Philippines’ priorities and plans to tackle economic recovery, food security, and agricultural productivity.” How will these domestic details that are important to us Filipinos reverberate amid the din of this troubled world?

* * *

Before this column sees print, we hope to hear the good news that President Biden has found time to meet with President Marcos, either on the sideline of the UNGA session or, better, at the White House in Washington, DC.

Filipino taxpayers may be interested to know, btw, that Marcos is not on a state visit where the host foots part of the bill, ferries on Air Force One the visitor from the port of entry to Washington, DC, where a fitting formal welcome awaits him.

A meeting in DC reminds us of the elder Marcos being received in the Oval Office and somebody assigned to clock how long the visitors stayed in that sanctum sanctorum, the seat of power of the Great White Father.

Every ticking second was counted in a bid to break the Philippine record of a White House visit. If still short of the standing record, there was an effort to keep chatting to prolong even just a bit more past the Olympic moment.

This time, take out instead your calculators and have in mind the US dollar fetching ₱57.35. The entourage includes practically all Cabinet members: Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, Public Works Secretary Manuel Bonoan, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, Energy Secretary Rafael Lotilla, Information and Communication Technology Secretary Ivan Uy, among others.

Also in the delegation are House Speaker Martin Romualdez and, of course, presidential son and heir apparent Rep. Sandro Marcos of Ilocos Norte.

* * *

Next to a substantial Biden-Marcos dialogue, we give value to the PEB prepared for US investors, bankers and businessmen for Sept. 22. This is similar to the Post-SONA briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center last July 26 and the one in Singapore last Sept. 7.

The President will also meet members of the Fil-Am community, the US-ASEAN Business Council, the US-Philippines Society, and the Asia Society.

The PEB has two panel discussions. The first, on the economic outlook of the Philippines, is moderated by Margaux Salcedo, who joins the economic team as Undersecretary of Budget. The panel is led by Secretary Diokno with Secretary Balisacan, Secretary Pangandaman. and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Felipe Medalla.

The second panel, which talks about investment opportunities in the Philippines, is moderated by BSP Managing Director Tony Lambino. It is composed of secretaries Pascual, Frasco, and Uy.

The briefing informs the international business community that the Philippines is going full speed ahead towards economic recovery and transformation. Diokno highlights a Medium-Term Fiscal Framework that outlines the administration’s economic objectives for the next six years while Balisacan emphasizes its eight-point Socio-economic Agenda.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 20, 2022)

* * *

News RoundUp

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