MANILA, Philippines – Over two months after he started his term, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is set to embark on his first state visits.
The President will be flying into Indonesia on September 4 then will head to Singapore on September 6. Both visits are state visits, or a visit of one head of state to another.
According to the Philippine Foreign Affairs department, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singaporean PresidentHalimah Yacob invited Marcos to visit their respective countries.
“A close neighbors and founding members of ASEAN, the Philippines enjoys active engagement with both Indonesia and Singapore in terms of myriad areas including security and defense, trade and investment, people-to-people exchanges and more,” said Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Teresita Daza during a press briefing on Friday, September 2.
What can we expect from Marcos’ four-day visit to our Southeast Asian allies? Here’s what you can expect and watch out for, based on briefings from the DFA and the Palace.
While Malacañang has yet to release the full list of officials who will be part of the official delegation to Indonesia and Singapore, President Marcos is sure to be accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and his economic team – Finance Chief Benjamin Diokno, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Secretary of Budget and Management Amenah Pangandaman, Secretary of National Economic and Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan, and Bangko Sentral of the Philippines Governor Felipe Medalla.
Who will Marcos be meeting?
A lot of people. To begin with, Marcos will meet Indonesia’s Widodo. According to a DFA release, the two are “expected to discuss the two countries’ active and multi-faceted cooperation on defense, maritime, border, economic, and people-to-people cooperation” and “exchange views on major issues affecting the region and the world.”
President Marcos is expected to raise the case of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, who has been jailed in Indonesia since 2010 after she was duped into being a drug mule.
Both Marcos and Widodo will witness the signing of agreements between the two countries, including a “comprehensive Plan of Action that will chart the countries’ bilateral priorities over the next five years.”
Meetings with business leaders – the identities of whom Malacañang has yet to disclose – are also set to happen during his visit to Indonesia.
In Singapore, Marcos will have separate meetings with Singaporean President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Marcos and Lee will also witness the signing of agreements between the Philippines and Singapore, including those on counter-terrorism and data privacy.
Marcos will also be meeting with Filipino communities in both Indonesia and Singapore.
What agreements are going to be made?
Agreements signed on the sidelines meetings of heads of state are typically ones that have been long negotiated and finalized.
The Plan of Action with Indonesia “will layout comprehensive and actionable roadmap for bilateral cooperation over the next five years,” according to Daza. “Areas of cooperation” include: security and defense, border management, counter-terrorism, economy, energy, maritime affairs, culture, education, labor, health, and consular matters.
The Philippines and Indonesia will also renew a 1997 Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Field of Defense and Security – a framework for defense and security cooperations between the two countries. The two countries will also be signing a memorandum of understanding on cultural cooperation.
In Singapore, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Singapore Armed Forces will be signing an arrangement that would assignment a team to the regional counter-terrorism information facility or the CTIF. According to Daza “the Philippines can share its experience and expertise in addressing or combatting terrorism” by deploying a Philippine officer to the information facility.
The Philippines’ National Privacy Commission and Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Commission will also be signing a memorandum of understanding on personal data protection.
What issues will be raised?
The DFA and the Palace have deferred from speaking specifics for the most part, but, upon prompting, have mentioned issues Marcos is likely to raise during his meetings with the heads of state.
In Indonesia, of course, Marcos is expected to raise the case of Mary Jane Veloso.
Both in Indonesia and Singapore, the topic of tensions in the West Philippine Sea is likely to come up. “There will clearly be discussions on key regional issues of mutual interest, including the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea issue, cognizant that all three countries are actually – had the common goal to maintain peace and stability and prevent incidents in this particular part of the world – in this part of the world,” said Daza.
Other “regional and global developments” will also be raised during their meetings.
Finally, why Indonesia and Singapore?
Philippine presidents traditionally visit a Southeast Asian country for their first state visits.
Aside from the two being fellow founding Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) members, there are country-specific points that make Indonesia and Singapore obvious choices for Marcos’ first state visits.
Indonesia is the largest economy in the region and is the current President of the G20. Indonesia is also set to be the chair of ASEAN in 2023.
Singapore, meanwhile, is a “key trade and investment partner of the Philippines,” according to Daza. Singapore is the Philippines’ 6th largest trading partner and was the top source of approved investments in 2021. Singapore is also the Philippines’ second-largest source of remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers – over 200,000 Filipinos live and work in the city-state. – Rappler.com