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MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo - The Philippine Star
Start spreading the news
President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. with US President Joe Biden.

So goes the first line in the classic hit New York, New York, the theme song from the Martin Scorsese film of the same name in 1977, composed by John Kander with lyrics by Fred Ebb. The song, first written for and performed in the movie by Liza Minnelli, received lackluster attention until Frank Sinatra sang it in 1978, when it then skyrocketed to become one of the best-known songs about New York City to this day.

This song, of course, came to mind when recalling the six-day working visit of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to New York City. I had the honor of being invited to be part of the business delegation that accompanied the President on this trip.

This is the first time that PBBM stepped foot in the United States as the Philippine president, and it was his first working visit after assuming the presidency.

His visit focused on bringing more business to the country, as we recover from the economic scars caused by the pandemic. Food and energy security, as well as enhanced agricultural productivity, were of great importance.

One of his first activities upon arrival was to attend a gathering of over 1,200 Filipinos in New Jersey where, akin to his visit to the Filipino community in Singapore, he was treated like a rock star. In the days that ensued, PBBM also held several meetings with other world leaders and with key business officials. More about this later in my succeeding columns.

The highlight of the working visit was the address before the 77th United Nations General Assembly or UNGA. This was during the afternoon session of the high-level General Debate.

President Marcos at the UN General Assembly.

PBBM was the first leader from Southeast Asia to speak during the General Debate and the first Filipino to take to the podium since 2014.

In his speech, the President mentioned that he stood there on behalf of 110 million Filipinos, and that, at this time of crisis and opportunity, he brought with him the spirit of their enduring commitment to the ideals of our United Nations.

He said that this commitment was reflected in our solid contributions to the cause of peace and justice; that differences should only be resolved through peaceful means; and that by reinforcing the predictability and stability of international law, we provided an example of how states should resolve their differences, which was through reason and through right.

PBBM made mention of how the United Nations’ first Asian president, General Carlos P. Romulo, called on leaders then to “make this floor our last battlefield, to determine in this hall whether humanity is to survive or be wiped out in another holocaust.” He also said that our peoples chose survival, cooperation, and peace; and, by doing so, made history.

PBBM then said that today history once again calls us to make these choices and that he saw four challenges to the continued survival of our global community: climate change; the development of advanced technologies rapidly transforming human life and experience; widening geopolitical polarities and sharpening strategic competitions that are transforming the international political landscape; and the continued persistence of inequalities and inequities within and among countries.

PBBM then said that we have always been an optimistic and courageous nation, and that despite the enormity of these challenges, we believe that solutions are within our collective grasp — that we already identified three tools at our disposal, which are solidarity, sustainability, and science.

PBBM then ended by saying that the world is ready for transformation and that it is up to us as leaders of our nations to move and shape that transformation. Let the challenges of one people be the challenges for all nations. The success of one will be the success of all.

President Marcos with House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations Antonio Manuel Lag-dameo Sr., Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez and Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo, Jr.

“Let us dream, let us work for those successes for all our nations, united!”

I think House Speaker Martin Romualdez said it best in reaction to PBBM’s speech: “I have never been prouder to stand as a Filipino in the company of world leaders.”

After the President’s UNGA speech, the business delegation congratulated him on what was, in my view, a well-written and well-delivered speech. This was a highly successful debut on the world stage and, to go back to the song New York, New York, it is time to start spreading the news of the success of the UNGA speech and of the working visit.

While in New York City, PBBM had the chance to meet no less than the President of the United States, Joe Biden, in a separate one-on-one meeting, where they spoke for more than 45 minutes, more than the usual time allotted, which showed the importance that the US President gives to their relationship with the Philippines.

My hats off to the organizers of this working visit for a very successful trip.

My congratulations to PBBM, to First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, to Rep. Sandro Marcos, Simon and Vincent Marcos, and to the members of the Cabinet who put this trip together.

Special mention to our hardworking Ambassador to the United States, Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez, to our Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Antonio Manuel Lagdameo, and to the Special Assistant to the President, my dear friend, Secretary Anton Lagdameo.

To the women and men who oversaw the presidential visit, as well as to all the attachés who worked tirelessly to make this happen, thank you and congratulations!

Speaker Romualdez, Secretary Lagdameo, President Marcos, Ambassador Lagdameo, Ambassador Romualdez (Back) Secretary Manalo.

Congratulations also to the business delegation and the private sector that supported the trip: Convenor of the Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Sabin Aboitiz; my chairman, Manuel V. Pangilinan; Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala; Enrique Razon; Ramon Ang; Lance Gokongwei; Doris Ho; Michael Tan; Kevin Tan; Joey Concepcion; George Barcelon; and many others.

And, as the song goes: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York, New York!”

By golly, we did make it there. Kudos!

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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