Early on, in both his inaugural speech and his first State-of-the Nation Address, President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. indicated that, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, he would pursue an independent foreign policy that protects national sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest.
The fundamental law also provides that in our dealings with other countries, the government should adhere to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.
Those Constitutional provisions have been encapsulated in the catchphrase “friend to all, enemy to none” as the guiding principle of the current dispensation in our foreign relations.
With that principle in mind, Marcos Jr. appears to be wasting no time in expanding and strengthening the country’s ties with other nations.
By the end of his first six months in office, he would have racked up no less than eight official trips abroad.
In September, he traveled to Indonesia and Singapore, both original members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and managed to meet with the highest officials and business leaders there, in the process managing to wangle investment pledges that can certainly help the economy recover from the nearly three years of the COVID-19 lockdowns by creating more jobs for Filipino workers.
In the same month, Marcos embarked on a working visit to the United States where he delivered a speech at the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
There he emphasized that disputes should only be resolved through peaceful means, citing the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The President also called on all nations to take part in the common effort to fight the effects of climate change.
Another highlight of this working visit to the US was his brief meeting with US President Joe Biden, who reaffirmed the United States’ “ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines.” Marcos assured Biden that Manila would remain Washington’s ally in “maintaining the peace in Asia.”
Marcos’ diplomatic offensive gathered more steam when he attended the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from November 10-13.
Here, the Chief Executive ramped up his advocacy of a rules-based international order.
Amid competing territorial claims in the South China Sea, Marcos expressed support for the approval of a Code of Conduct based on international law.
The code of conduct in the disputed waters aims to reduce the risk of conflict over the strategic waterway.
He will have ample opportunity to discuss this with Chinese leaders since he has accepted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to make a state visit to China early next year. China was represented by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the summit.
At the 10th ASEAN-US Summit, Marcos called for the continuation of ASEAN-US cooperation in addressing maritime security and transnational crime.
He expressed full support for US projects in support of efforts to combat transnational crime, terrorism and trafficking in persons.
The establishment of the ASEAN-US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, he said, would “serve as an additional anchor to our regional architecture and to the current international order that is presently volatile and constantly in flux.”
During the ASEAN-Canada Commemorative Summit, Marcos vowed to work with the other ASEAN member-states and Canada in promoting fair migration across the region along with the improvement of working conditions and labor protection policies, particularly for low-paid migrant workers. Canada is home to over 900,000 Filipinos.
In the second ASEAN-Australia Summit, Marcos welcomed Philippine engagement with Australia on the implementation of the Strategic Plan for ASEAN Cooperation in Food, Agriculture, and Forestry for 2016 – 2025.
“Food-resilience and food self-sufficiency are two of our very basic and foremost priorities in the Philippines. We need to protect the region and our countries from shocks on the global food value chain, as well as against the adverse effects of climate change,” he said.
During the ASEAN-Plus Three (APT) Summit that included leaders from China, Japan and South Korea, Marcos spoke with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who pointed out that the differences between the two countries are outweighed by their common interests.
“He has been proven right because the partnership with China has been a great benefit to both our countries,” Marcos said.
At the 19th ASEAN-India Summit, the President urged members of the regional bloc to work closely with India to ensure better access to medicines and vaccines, calling India the “pharmacy of the world.”
Marcos has two more official trips abroad before the year ends as he is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Thailand this week and the ASEAN-EU Summit in Belgium in December.
The diplomatic blitzkrieg is poised to gain even more traction as Marcos will also embark on state visits to China, Japan and quite possibly the United States in 2023, all part of his administration’s “friends to all, enemy to none” approach to foreign policy. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)