Marcos Jr. on top of his game during APEC meet – envoy

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos Jr. on top of his game during APEC meet � envoy
Philippines Presdient Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers remarks during the Philippines 123 Signing Ceremony during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Week in San Francisco, California, on November 16, 2023. The APEC Summit takes place through November 17.
AFP / Frederic Brown Jr.

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos was “on top of his game” during the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, and many world leaders have expressed interest to come to the Philippines to boost their ties with the country, according to Manila’s envoy to Washington.

Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said leaders present during the summit had wanted to meet with Marcos or at least have a conversation with him during the reception hosted by US President Joe Biden.

“I can tell you ... he is on top of his game, so to speak,” Romualdez said in an interview with ANC last Tuesday.

“(Leaders of) other countries sort of gravitated toward him and had a conversation with him. This is what I mean by you have now a world leader (who) is respected, and they very much would like to have a meeting with him,” he added.

The 21 APEC member-economies are home to three billion people or nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, according to the US State Department.

Marcos was in the US from Nov. 14 to 19 to participate in the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in San Francisco and to visit Los Angeles and Hawaii.

Romualdez said that this year’s APEC meet was one of Marcos’ best trips because he had an opportunity to meet with 21 leaders from all over the world.

“The priority has been economic security for us. We’d like to have more business and more trade with many countries,” Romualdez said.

Malacañang has reported that the amount of investment pledges made during Marcos’ participation in the 30th  APEC Summit and other related engagements in San Francisco has reached $672.3 million.

The pledges came from the telecommunications sector ($400 million), semiconductor and electronics ($250 million), pharmaceutical and health care ($20 million), artificial intelligence for weather forecasting ($2 million) and renewable energy ($0.3 million).

Friend to all

Meanwhile, Romualdez reiterated that the Philippines is not seeking a fight with China despite the two countries’ long-standing dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

“Just respect our sovereignty, let us talk about what you are saying is yours and what is ours. (Marcos) would like to see an interaction, especially with China,” the ambassador said.

“No country would like to have any kind of conflict with anyone ... to us, it doesn’t matter what kind of system you have. We just want to have some friendly relations with you, we’d like to have more trade with you. That’s really basically what it is,” he added.

The President is doing his best to reach out to China, according to Romualdez.

“Now, what’s happening is that because of the tension, we have to rely on our ally, the United States... In fairness to whatever people may say, the Americans have always had this thing about ‘if you need us, we’re there,’ and this time, they really mean it obviously, and it also jives with their own interests... Our interests are the same with the United States and also other like-minded countries, like Australia, Japan, South Korea and even Vietnam and Malaysia,” he said.

Last Saturday, Marcos met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease the tensions in the West Philippine Sea, the area in the South China Sea inside Manila’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

During the meeting, Marcos said Filipino fishermen should have access to the West Philippine Sea and expressed concern over incidents involving Chinese and Philippine ships that culminated in a collision near Ayungin Shoal last month.

The President added that he and Xi attempted to come up with mechanisms to lower the temperature in the South China Sea.

Asked to elaborate on the mechanisms mentioned by Marcos, Romualdez replied: “I think the President was referring to what he told President Xi when he had this state visit in China (last) January... he told him we should be able to talk to each other or at certain level, high level communication.”

“Some of that has not been fulfilled, and I think it is really very frustrating for us especially,” the envoy added.

In his speech at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii last Sunday, Marcos emphasized that the Philippines has to work with its allies to maintain peace in the South China Sea.

“Supported by the rules-based international order and our growing partnerships, both time-tested and new ones, we will insist on the preservation of the sovereignty and integrity of the country, while working closely with international partners in the bilateral, regional and multilateral settings in developing rules and processes to address these challenges,” he said.

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