Marcos off today to Brunei, Singapore

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Marcos off today to Brunei, Singapore
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on May 25, 2024.
STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos leaves for Brunei and Singapore today, his 26th and 27th foreign trip since assuming office in 2022.

Marcos begins today his two-day visit to Brunei – his first – to be highlighted by a meeting with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

At a press briefing recently, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary Aileen Mendiola-Rau said discussions between the two heads of state would focus on economic cooperation, noting that Brunei is a “powerhouse” in energy.

From Brunei, Marcos will fly to Singapore to deliver the keynote address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue 2024, the first Philippine president to do so.

The Philippines and Brunei are also working on several memoranda of understanding in priority areas like agriculture, food security, maritime cooperation and tourism.

Rau said the 40-year-old relationship between the Philippines and Brunei is multifaceted, covering cooperation in defense and security, maritime, agriculture, trade and people-to-people relations.

“The state visit is a signal of our vibrant relations as both countries conducted the joint commission for bilateral cooperation chaired by the DFA last year,” the DFA official said.

“This state visit will provide an avenue for both leaders to take stock of the progress of our commitments and ongoing bilateral undertakings, and fine-tune them accordingly,” she added.

Marcos will also meet with the Filipino community and attend a business forum, where he is expected to push for stronger trade ties between the Philippines and Brunei, both members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area.

“Aside from being part of the tradition of the ASEAN leaders visiting fellow ASEAN countries, this state visit is in line with the President’s commitment to continue exploring avenues for economic growth and job opportunities for Filipinos as the business forum is aimed to boost trade and investments into the country,” Rau said.

There are more than 25,000 Filipinos in Brunei.

During his working visit to Singapore, Marcos will deliver the keynote address at the 21st Edition of the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual inter-governmental security forum that started in 2002.

The forum would be held against the backdrop of tensions in the South China Sea sparked by China’s acts of aggression that threaten regional stability and freedom of navigation. China, whose expansive maritime claim in the South China Sea was invalidated by an international arbitral court in 2016, is expected to send representatives to the event.

Some 500 participants from 40 countries are expected to participate in the forum.

“The dialogue will provide a good platform for defense ministers, military chiefs, government officials and security experts around the world to discuss and address regional and global security challenges,” DFA spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza said.

“When you have a forum such as this, it gives a good platform for a country to actually expound and articulate its position on key issues. So, it will be an important platform for us to actually also convey our positions relative to what is happening within the region and what we are advocating for,” she added.

Marcos will also meet with Singapore President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and former prime minister and now Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the sidelines of the forum.

Rau said Marcos’ meeting with the Singaporean leaders comes at a “very auspicious juncture,” noting that the two countries are commemorating 55 years of diplomatic relations.

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