Marcos off to Australia

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos off to Australia
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. speaks with his new Finance Secretary Ralph Recto and Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs Frederick Go after their oathtaking at the Malacañang Palace on January 12, 2024.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos leaves today for Australia for a “guest of government” visit until tomorrow, on the invitation of Canberra Governor General David Hurley.

On March 4 to 6, the President will return to Australia for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit upon the invitation of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, according to foreign affairs spokesperson Maria Teresita Daza.

Marcos, who has had 21 foreign trips since becoming president in 2022, will deliver a speech before Australian lawmakers during his visit, the first by a Philippine president.

He will also have a formal exchange of views on various cooperation areas and regional issues with Hurley, Albanese and parliamentary leaders.

“During this visit, the President will have the honor of addressing the parliament of Australia where he is expected to convey a shared vision and future with Australia under the ambit of the strategic partnership and informed by common history, long-standing people-to-people ties and mutual adherence to the rules-based order and international law,” Daza said at a press briefing yesterday at Malacañang.

According to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), Marcos will be joining 16 world leaders who have addressed the Australian parliament, including the late US presidents George H.W. Bush in 1992, Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2003; Chinese President Hu Jintao, British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 and Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014.

Daza said the first leg of Marcos’ visit to Australia would “further strengthen existing bonds of cooperation” and enable discussions for new avenues of collaboration as the two countries look forward to celebrating the 78th anniversary of their diplomatic ties this year.

“The visit is envisioned to further cement the strategic partnership that affirmed the two countries’ shared interests in regional prosperity and peace,” she added.

In a statement last Saturday, the PCO said Marcos is expected to discuss defense and security, trade, investments, people-to-people exchanges, multilateral cooperation and regional issues during separate meetings with Australian senior officials.

Asked if there would be outcome documents on security and agriculture during Marcos’ trip to Canberra, Daza replied: “Yes on both, but I’m not at liberty to actually detail it at this point in time because we cannot preempt the visit and I think appropriate announcements will be made after.”

“If you look at the joint declaration on strategic partnership between the Philippines and Australia, you’ll be able to see the whole range of areas of cooperation between the two countries...defense cooperation, economic cooperation, people-to-people linkages are some of the issues that actually have been incorporated in the joint declaration,” she pointed out.

Rule of law

Foreign affairs assistant secretary Daniel Espiritu said the upcoming ASEAN-Australia Summit in Melbourne would be an opportunity for the Philippines to present its core position on regional and international issues and set the tone for dialogue partner summits this year.

The two main events at the summit proper on March 6 are the leaders’ plenary, an occasion to review the cooperation between ASEAN and Australia and suggest ways to strengthen their relations; and the leaders’ retreat, where participants will exchange views on key developments and issues.

Espiritu said Marcos may thank Australia, during the leaders’ plenary, for its “unwavering” support for the rule of law, specifically the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award.

“At the leaders’ retreat, the President may encourage Australia to remain committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes and to maintain respect for the rules-based international order and multilateralism which is currently very much under challenge,” the foreign affairs official added.

Marcos is scheduled to have engagements with Australian investors and Filipinos in Melbourne before the summit.

On March 4, the President will deliver the keynote remarks at the Lowy Institute, where he is expected to discuss the Philippines’ role in world affairs, including its being a contributor to the rules-based regional security architecture.

The following day, Marcos will deliver a speech at the Victoria International Container Terminal.

“Now, this is important since this will involve the launching of the expansion of the Victoria International Container Terminal which is Australia’s first fully-automated container terminal,” Espiritu said.

He said the terminal is a subsidiary of the Philippine International Container Terminal Service Inc. and “a testament to ICTSI’s leadership in the field of global port management.”

The President will also attend the Philippine Business Forum to be led by the trade department as well as bilateral meetings with the leaders of Cambodia and New Zealand.

Espiritu said rice and air connectivity agreements may be tackled during the meeting with Cambodia.

“We are exploring the possibility,” he said when asked if the Philippines is planning to import rice from Cambodia.

The meeting with New Zealand, meanwhile, is expected to touch on political, security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation and the plight of Filipino workers.

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