'Half came on their own': Marcos defends 'large' WEF delegation

James Relativo - Philstar.com
'Half came on their own': Marcos defends 'large' WEF delegation
Philippine's President Ferdinand Marcos Jr speaks during a session at the Congress centre during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on January 18, 2023.
AFP / Fabrice Coffrini

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. defended the size of his delegation to the World Economic Forum (WEF), saying they need people who can actually supply answers in Davos, Switzerland — "half" of which went there on a private capacity.

Vera Files earlier reported that at least 70 people accompanied Marcos Jr. in his overseas trip from January 16 to 20, dwarfing the delegation of the United States (19), India (7), Finland (4), etc. This prompted criticisms from various sectors questioning the amount of money the government spent on said trip.

"Well, the delegation was large. But half of it was private. They came here on their own. They stayed in their own places. They made their own arrangements. Although, they are technically part of the delegation," Marcos Jr. told reporters Friday.

"So the delegation essentially just consists of the Cabinet secretaries, myself, the speaker, and of course the staff that support them. Those are the — nakita naman niyo ‘yung eroplano, walang laman halos eh because it’s — we don’t need — we didn’t fill it up. We don’t have that many people — that the government is paying for."

The Makabayan bloc earlier said they are planning to call for an inquiry into the trip to find out who paid for the delegation's travel expenses. ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, in an interview with CNN Philippines, noted that it was "very lavish," with hotel, food and transportation costs being very expensive.

The Palace last Thursday identified those who formed part of the delegation, many of which are business leaders and government officials:

  • Sabin Aboitiz (Aboitiz & Company)
  • Kevin Andrew Tan (Alliance Global)
  • Jaime Zobel de Ayala (Ayala Group)
  • Lance Gokongwei (JG Summit Holdings)
  • Ramon Ang (San Miguel Corp.)
  • Teresita Sy-Coson (SM Investments)
  • Enrique Razon (International Container Terminal)
  • House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez
  • former president and current Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
  • Sen. Mark Villar
  • Ilocos Norte First District Rep. Ferdinand Alexander Marcos III
  • TINGOG Party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez
  • Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual
  • Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan
  • Special Assistant to the President Antonio Lagdameo Jr.
  • Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, etc.

"We tried to be complete. When is the next chance we will get to speak to CEOs of top Fortune 100 companies in the period of two days? So whoever we get to talk to kailangan nandoon ‘yung secretary na pwede niyang sagutin, pwede niyang kausapin," Marcos Jr. said.

"So whoever we get to talk to, kailangan nandun ‘yong secretary na pwede niyang sagutin, pwede niyang kausapin."

He added that the WEF is important since it allowed the government to promote the Philippines to investors.

The WEF is the president's eighth international trip since he took office on June 30 last year. This is also his second overseas trip in two weeks.

In October 2022, Marcos explained his trip to the F1 Grand Prix in Singapore while several provinces were still grappling with the aftermath of Super Typhoon Karding, saying that this was the "best way to drum up business."

Carlos Sorreta, undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and International Economic Relations at the Department of Foreign Affairs, earlier stated that the proposed Maharlika Wealth Fund will be "soft launched" by Marcos in Davos.

The controversial bill that seeks to establish the Maharlika Investment Fund was revealed Friday to be quietly "re-engineered," this after being swiftly passed in the House of Representatives last year. 

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