February 9, 2023

‘ACT AS A PRESIDENT, NOT AS AN AMBASSADOR AT-LARGE’

From build, build, build to travel, travel, travel.
That is how Filipinos describe the national government’s program, owing to the frequent foreign trips of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his entourage which his allies claim to be necessary towards achieving a golden age for the country’s economy and therefore should not be an issue.
The President’s trip to Davos, Switzerland was his eighth since he assumed the presidency in June last year.
Definitely, those on the side of the national leadership have all the justifications for the President’s foreign trips, including his latest travel to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum, where the key participants are not the heads of states, but the world’s billionaires and international personalities seeking platforms for their various agendas. In fact, Marcos Jr. is the only Southeast Asian leader in attendance.
We say otherwise to the claims of the President’s allies that his foreign trips are a non-issue.
It is a public issue since it involves use of public funds. The supposed inclusion of individuals in these travels without any official business thereat is also a public issue.
Even the President’s unannounced trip to watch the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix has been justified even if it was apparently nothing more than a pleasure trip. Meeting the prime minister of Singapore after the event, which Malacañang claimed as “the best way to drum up business”, cannot be taken as sufficient excuse for such a pleasure trip.
We were not born yesterday.
While Malacañang has proclaimed the President’s foreign trips have brought billions worth of investments to the country, pundits claim that pledges made during visits of a head of state are customary gestures of courtesy by any host country.
Besides, pundits also claim most of the investments and pledges made were not new, but sheer expansion plans of multinational firms already doing business in the country, which would be implemented just the same even without a head of state visit.
Before the President and his entourage plan on making another trip, Malacañang and its battery of economic advisers should first start arresting the increasing inflation affecting majority of Filipinos.
It starts with bringing back the average price of onions from by as much as P600 to less than P100 a kilo.
It should include cutting down the big delegation in his foreign trips at the expense of the taxpayers’ money and notwithstanding the economic crisis being suffered by millions of average Filipino families.
With the President in command of the Department of Agriculture, the rising cost of onions (with eggs and sugar likely to follow) on top of the inflation rate, is giving foreign leaders and potential investors a glimpse of his brand of leadership.
This means the President must first look into fixing domestic concerns with global impacts before becoming more aggressive in his goal to “reintroduce the Philippines” to the rest of the world.
Besides, Filipinos have seriously begun to wonder about the propriety of the series of his foreign trips.
By the way, is there need for us to remind Malacañang that Marcos Jr. was elected to lead this nation to greater heights as a President, not as an ambassador-at-large with an excess baggage?