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Opinion

A very successful US trip for President BBM

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Ambassador B. Romualdez - The Philippine Star

Arriving on presidential flight PR001 from Manila to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, we were extremely honored to welcome President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for his official visit to the United States – his first trip to the Western world as president. With me was Ambassador Antonio Manuel “Tonet” Lagdameo, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Our staff from the Philippine embassy in Washington D.C. and the New York consulate, together with the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN office, worked extremely hard to make the President’s trip successful.

As instructed by the President, he wanted his trip to be meaningful and successful. And sure enough to begin with, the Filipino community event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center was jampacked where the President and the First Lady received a very warm welcome from our kababayans – many of them traveling from across the US, with some coming all the way from Canada just to see the President, who lauded the overseas Filipino workers for their courage and heroism at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A good friend of mine, John Tuttle, who is vice chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, invited the President as their special guest. The President and the First Lady were expected to ring the closing bell. While making our way to the famous balcony, a number of Filipino traders and people at the trading floor came up to President BBM to congratulate and wish him well. I found it a very good omen that the green light was on, signaling that the stocks were going up.

Joining the President at the NYSE forum were members of his economic team that include Finance Secretary Ben Diokno and Trade Secretary Fred Pascual, as well as businessmen led by Aboitiz Group president and CEO Sabin Aboitiz, lead convenor of the Private Sector Advisory Council.

The NYSE meeting was a great opportunity to signal that the Philippines is definitely back on track and is the “next big thing in Asia,” as Sabin Aboitiz said, describing President Bongbong Marcos as smart because he was able to get 30 of the Philippines’ busiest CEOs to “voluntarily work for him and our country.”

The President’s schedule was arranged in such a way that even dinners became meetings with American business executives coming from various industries, along with discussions from organizations such as the US-ASEAN Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce as well as the World Bank.

The main event was of course his speech at the 77th UN General Assembly, where he told the world that we are a country that seeks global peace, underscoring “our open, inclusive and rules-based international order that is governed by international law and informed by the principles of equity and of justice” as we continue to be “a friend to all, and an enemy of none.”

PBBM called attention to climate change as the greatest threat affecting nations and the people, saying “the time for talk about if and when has long since passed – it is here and now.” He called on industrialized nations to act responsibly as the effects of climate change are “uneven and reflect an historical injustice: Those who are least responsible suffer the most,” among them the Philippines.

The President also spoke about existential threats and the transcendent challenges of our times that are as consequential as those the world faced 77 years ago when the UN was founded. Saying the world is at a watershed moment and is ready for transformation, he enjoined world leaders to work together, to stand united and achieve success for the peoples of the world.

It was an excellent, well delivered speech that people thought was very well written. The President himself had been working on it for some time, adding ideas and keeping at it for the past month. As usual, the sour-graping naysayers started posting that hardly anyone heard the President speak at the UN General Assembly hall. The fact is, many permanent representatives usually watch it from their mission offices.

One of the highlights of the visit was PBBM’s meeting with Dr. Henry Kissinger, who came over to the President’s hotel. The former US State secretary – who has been described as “a master of the geopolitical chessboard” – was still very sharp at 99 and had fond memories of president Marcos Sr. and Mrs. Imelda Marcos. During their one-on-one, the President had good insights from Dr. Kissinger on what the world was before, and the political challenges the world faces today. The President truly appreciated Dr. Kissinger’s insights that were extremely valuable.

The most awaited engagement was President BBM’s bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden. I accompanied the President together with Secretary Ricky Manalo and Secretary Diokno, House Speaker Martin Romualdez who brought along Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Sandro Marcos. President Biden has always been a warm and friendly person and the two leaders hit it off very well. I must admit that it gives me a great feeling that we are truly on the right track regarding our relationship with the United States.

We were hoping BBM could stay longer but it was clear his schedule was already packed full once he arrives in Manila. While the amount of business pledges is normally used to evaluate the outcome of a President’s overseas trip, I personally think that the success of this US trip could not be measured simply in terms of the amount of potential investments but more in terms of elevating the country’s profile in ways that are immeasurable.

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Email: [email protected]

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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