‘Full speed ahead’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Mission accomplished. This, in brief, can best describe the just concluded official visit to the United States (US) of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM). This was capped by PBBM’s successful address before the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York last Thursday. The Marcos lucky number worked again to the favor of the 17th President of the Philippines.

Oh well, the number seven has always been the Marcos family’s lucky charm ever since. Other than sheer luck, let us give credit to where credit is due. The hard work and diplomatic skills of Jose Manuel “Babes” Romualdez and aided by seasoned diplomat, Antonio Manuel Lagdameo as the Permanent Philippine Representative to the UN, paid off handsomely for PBBM.

Romualdez tried but failed in vain in the past in getting former President Rodrigo Duterte to make a state visit to Washington, or even just an official trip to the US. A second cousin of PBBM, Romualdez rabidly wooed the White House to agree to squeeze in a very brief sideline meeting between US President Joe Biden with a more US-friendly President.

Despite hectic schedules at the UN Headquarters, the sideline meeting took place after the American leader also spoke at the same UNGA plenary gathering attended by other world leaders. PBBM also had sideline meetings with newly installed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and French President Emmanuel Macron. Unlike the more rigid sit down tete-a-tete talks with US and Japanese heads of states, it was a more informal stand-up chat between PBBM and the French President.

Actually, PBBM already had hotline telephone talks with Macron last Sept. 16 before both of them met at the UNGA. In his official Facebook account, PBBM disclosed he had a 20-minute phone talk with his French counterpart about mutual concerns of both countries. During their telephone conversation, both leaders looked forward to meeting each other in person soon, Malacañang announced in a separate statement. And met they did, now eyeball-to-eyeball at the UNGA sidelines.

Also present during these important meetings of PBBM were Speaker Martin Ferdinand Romualdez and senior deputy majority leader Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos. The President’s first cousin and son, respectively, were among the members of official delegation to the US along with key Cabinet officials as well as a big delegation of businessmen and the chief executive officers of the biggest private conglomerates in the Philippines.

Curiously though, none of the 24 Senators joined the US trip of PBBM, not even his self-proclaimed “super Ate,” Sen. Imee Marcos.

Incidentally, PBBM sent to London their youngest sister Irene and her husband Greg Araneta to represent the Philippines in the state funeral last week of the late British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Biden and Macron and several other world leaders invited to the state funeral of the Queen also flew to London first before going to the UNGA.

Speaking of state funeral, Vice President Sara Duterte is attending one for the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan who died in assassination last July 8. Regarded as the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan, a state funeral will be held in Tokyo tomorrow. It is now the turn of the Vice President to go abroad. She was the designated officer-in-charge while PBBM was out of the country for six days.

This is her first official trip abroad since assuming the Office of the Vice President and as concurrent Education Secretary. She will join fellow US Vice President Kamala Harris who will head the US delegation designated by Biden to represent him in the state funeral rites in Tokyo. But it is more personal with VP Duterte who will also represent her father. The late Japanese Prime Minister is considered as very close personal friend of the ex-president Duterte. Abe visited the Duterte family residence in Davao City in January 2017 during a state visit here in the Philippines.

Last week, the Commission on Appointments confirmed Mylene Garcia-Albano as the first woman ambassador of the Philippines to Japan. Thus, she can join VP Duterte as part of her official entourage in Tokyo. A lawyer and also from Davao City like the VP, Garcia-Albano is formerly a Congresswoman for three consecutive terms. She is the wife of former Congressman and now Isabela Governor Rodolfo Albano and daughter of former Congressman Manuel Garcia.

At the end of his US trip, PBBM raved about the “vibes” he sensed while in New York on renewed American business and investment interests to the Philippines. Those were a few days before the US Federal Reserve raised anew its interest rates by 0.75 basis points. It sent shock waves that reached our shores and brought further down to P58.50 to $1 our foreign exchange trading last Friday.

Now that the parleys and the trip were over, everyone returns home happy with the party loot bags.

PBBM is back to work today in his office at Malacañang Palace. But even before the official US visit winded down, Senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri led several Senators last Friday in heaping plaudits to PBBM. An exuberant Zubiri described the working visit to the US of the President as “a home run” win as in a baseball game.

A similar comment was given to the late president Corazon Aquino of having scored a “home run” after her address before a joint session of the US Congress on Sept. 18, 1986. Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, while he escorted Mrs. Aquino up the House aisle to the tumultuous applause, told her: “You hit a home run.” To which Mrs. Aquino riposted: “I just hope the bases are loaded.”

That was 36 years ago when Zubiri was still a teenager and perhaps played baseball. The Senate chief likened the sales pitch done in the US by PBBM to a game of baseball, one of the favorite sports of Americans.

Closer to home, Zubiri could have quoted a one-liner from PBBM’s maiden state of the nation address (SONA) at the 19th Congress: “Full speed ahead.” But after the SONA last July 25, lawmakers though will have one-month recess starting this Friday.

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