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Opinion

BBM seeks formula, finds it in Grand Prix

POSTSCRIPT - Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

President Ferdinand Marcos is back from his unannounced second trip to Singapore where he supposedly continued his search for the elusive “formula” for solving the socio-economic woes of the Philippines.

But unlike Eva Peron who sang that “the answer was here (in Argentina) all the time,” it seems Marcos has found a kind of “Formula 1” in Singapore’s Grand Prix circuit for towing his countrymen from the economic backwaters.

We run below excerpts from my unpublished Oct. 4 column on the continuing search that has taken Marcos to Singapore.

“President Marcos should be back by now from his secretive second trip to neighboring Singapore in search of the ‘formula’ for solving the socio-economic woes of the Philippines.

“While Malacañang was mum on the weekend jaunt of Marcos and his congressman-son, their trip raised a storm of criticism over the unnecessary expense and their lack of empathy for Filipinos reeling from the effects of a typhoon, the pandemic and the economic mess.

“The trip’s negative aspects were magnified by reports that they slipped to Singapore just to watch the Formula 1 Grand Prix race, an event that Filipinos stuck in monstrous traffic jams back home cannot appreciate.

“Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles (who resigned suddenly for unspecified ‘medical reasons’) did not make sense stretching the statement of Singapore’s labor minister to make the Grand Prix fit the Palace narrative on the Marcoses hopping on an executive jet for the F1 event.

“Without presenting proof, the Press Secretary claimed that Marcos’ second trip was ‘productive’ in the same facile manner she described the Sept. 5-6 state visit as ‘successful.’ If it were so, why the need for that hurried followup?

“The statement of Singapore’s labor minister focused on the Formula 1 race with the conversations with Marcos and other VIP visitors mentioned in passing. Yet Angeles made it appear in her PR-vlogger style that bilateral undertakings were at the core of the meetings.

“She claimed that Marcos returned to Singapore to ‘affirm’ deals made during his earlier state visit. The busy President himself had to fly to Singapore again just to do that? At such great expense and while the country was still recovering from a devastating typhoon?

“In the continued absence until yesterday (Monday) of basic information from Malacañang on the second trip, we refer to a Twitter post of Gerry Cacanindin @GerryCacanindin:

‘Allegedly, the presidential jet, PAF RPP1, the P1-billion Gulfstream G280, was monitored on Flight Radar flying to Singapore this weekend. Average operating cost: $5,343 per hour. Flight time to Singapore: 3 hours one way. Total cost two-way: $32,058 or P1.885M.’

“That’s just the cost of flying the Gulfstream G280, if it was indeed used and the figures cited are correct. With the plane being government property, who paid for the attendant expenses?

“Malacañang reported earlier that in the first visit to Singapore, Marcos received investment pledges worth $6.54 billion for such projects as electric tricycles, floating solar technology and a data center. These could generate 15,000 new jobs, it added.

“Haven’t they learned from experience that such pledges – like the $24 billion in aid, grants and investments that then president Duterte was promised in his first visit to Beijing in 2016 when he announced his ‘separation’ from Uncle Sam – remain mere expressions of intention until delivery?”

*      *      *

On Monday night, President Marcos himself said on Facebook that his trip to Singapore was very productive.

“They say that playing golf is the best way to drum up business, but I say it’s Formula 1,” he said. “What a productive weekend! It was fulfilling to have been invited alongside several dignitaries and to have met new business friends who showed that they are ready and willing to invest in the Philippines.”

Foreign dignitaries mentioned were Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr., Cambodia’s minister attached to the Prime Minister and managing director of Electricite du Cambodge Keo Rottanak, Cambodian commerce minister Pan Sorasak and Saudi Arabia advisor to the Royal Court Dr. Fahad bin Abdullah Toonsi.

He did not mention, however, what investments or businesses they were seriously considering bringing to the Philippines.

On Tuesday, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin joined the discussion and defended the President. He reportedly said that the President was entitled to “his private time” but that he still performed his function as Chief Executive while on that trip.

Bersamin reportedly told the press that Marcos met with “many people who were very relevant to our business activities or the running of our government” and that the funding source for the trip was “irrelevant.”

“We do not have direct knowledge on how it was funded,” he said. “But I am sure if that was the trip of the President, you don’t need to be too particular about where the funds were sourced because he was still performing his job as President when he was abroad, although that is not an official state visit.”

The former Chief Justice reportedly said of the trip which has drawn wide criticism: “It’s not contrary to morals, it’s private time.”

He added: “Let’s assume that it is his private time because he chose to go there for a specific purpose, to watch (the Grand Prix race), that was his primary (purpose). But he could go there also for other purposes, equally important. You may not call that a state visit. Nonetheless, it’s not any less covered by that law which holds great importance and value to the welfare of the First Family.”

As for what benefit the country would derive from it, he said it was too early to tell. But Malacañang has been hailing the trip as successful!

With new elements brought into the discussion – such as private time, state visit, contrary to morals – with all due respect, we suggest that Palace statements be written out so the public would know exactly what was stated and how it was said.

*      *      *

NB: Author is on Twitter as @FDPascual. Email: [email protected]. All Postscripts are also archived at ManilaMail.com

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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