BBM's 25 foreign travels in less than 21 months

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

This president is breaking all records in Philippine history of presidential foreign travels. In 2022, in less than six months, he travelled abroad seven times. In 2023, he went on foreign trips 13 times. In less than three months in 2024, BBM shall have traveled no less than six times. This is too much. China is poised to attack the Philippines. Too much expenses when the country has more than ?14 trillion debt.

PBBM travelled more than 500% more than Presidents Duterte, PNoy, GMA, Erap, FVR, Cory Aquino, even his own father FM Sr., Macapagal, Garcia, Magsaysay, Quirino, Roxas, Laurel, Osmeña Sr., Quezon, and Aguinaldo combined. PBBM, head of state of a very poor country, travels 200% more than Presidents Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and heads of state of India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and all heads of state of Europe and the Middle East. The Philippines is keeping up and even exceeding the rich economies of the world.

The Philippine economy is worsening. Poverty is on the rise. El Niño is hitting the country. And PBBM is always travelling with the first lady and a large entourage of underlings, subalterns, and a coterie of junket tag-alongs, including security, health, secretariat, and clerical assistants, all at the expense of the government. No other president has ever done even one half of what PBBM has ever done. In 2022, barely warming his seat in Malacañang, he travelled to Indonesia (September 4 to 6), Singapore (September 6 to 7), the US for the UN (September 18 to 24), to the Singapore Grand Prix (October 1 to 3), to Cambodia (November 9 to 13), Thailand (November 16 to 19) and to Belgium (December 12 to 14). Those are seven foreign travels spending millions of US dollars.

In 2023, PBBM travelled to China, a country that loves us very dearly (January 3 to 6), to Switzerland (January 15 to 20), to Japan (February 8 to 12), the US (April 30 to May 4), to UK ( May 5 to 6), to Indonesia (May 9 to 11), to Malaysia (July 25 to 27), to Indonesia (September 4 to 7), to the Singapore Grand Prix again (September 13 to 17), to Saudi Arabia (October 19 to 21), to the US (November 15 to19), and to Japan again (December 15 to 18). Can you imagine how much it would cost the Philippines whenever PBBM and his large entourages would travel abroad?

In 2024, the president started the year with a trip to Brunei (January 13 to 14), then to Vietnam (January 29 to 30), to Australia (February 28 to 29) then back to Australia again (March 3 to 6). Then on March 11 to 13 to Germany, followed by another trip to Prague, Czech Republic (March 13 to 15). These are six foreign travels in less than three months. In May, he is poised to fly to Singapore again, perhaps for another Grand Prix packaged as a speaking engagement in the so-called Shangri-La Dialogue. Why does it require the head of state of a struggling economy to lecture to taipans in Shangri-La?

We have no problem if the international conference is under the auspices of the UN and ASEAN. But when it is the coronation of King Charles or Grand Prix, I humbly submit that a poor country like the Philippines should exercise prudence, restraint, and due concern for the millions who have no food to eat, and are homeless, jobless, and hopeless. There are conferences that can be attended by Cabinet members and other bureaucrats. Why does it have to be the president and his large contingents who do not create value to improve the quality of life of the people, much less alleviate the suffering of the poorest of the poor?

At the end of the day, what are the returns of investment? The much-bragged-about foreign investments supposedly generated by these foreign trips have not been realized as promised. The president should reflect deeply and his advisers should help him analyze all these ostentatious peregrinations and outrageously-expensive foreign travels.

When his own house is falling down, and his country is being bullied by China in cavalier and high-handed fashion, the president should stay home to protect and serve the people. The problem is here and the solutions are not abroad. We need a leader with hands on deck all the time.

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