Marcos to focus on ASEAN neighbors during first overseas trip as president

Basilio Sepe
Marcos to focus on ASEAN neighbors during first overseas trip as president President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. shakes hands with supporters as he attends an event on the 100th anniversary of the Philippine Nurses Association Inc. in Manila, Sept. 1, 2022.
Handout Office of the Press Secretary

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first official foreign trip since taking office in June will be to Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia and Singapore, highlighting the importance Manila gives to its fellow ASEAN members, the Philippine foreign office said Thursday.

Marcos will embark on the trip on Sunday, starting with a state visit to Indonesia at the invitation of his counterpart, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. After that, Marcos is to head to Singapore on Tuesday for a two-day state visit, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

“The President’s back-to-back visits to Indonesia and Singapore as his inaugural overseas trip demonstrate the importance the Philippines places on relations with fellow ASEAN neighbors,” the DFA said in a statement.

In Indonesia, Marcos and Jokowi are “expected to discuss the two countries’ active and multi-faceted cooperation on defense, maritime, border, economic and people-to-people cooperation,” it said.

The two leaders will also witness the signing of several agreements in the defense and agricultural fields, as well as a supposed “comprehensive plan of action” that would guide the two nations’ bilateral priorities in the next five years, the statement said.

“They will also exchange views on major issues affecting the region and the world.”

Indonesia is the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, and the incoming chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year. It is also the current president of the G20 – a grouping of the world’s top 20 developed nations.

Marcos also is planning a trip soon to long-time defense treaty ally, the United States, the Philippine envoy to the United States, Jose Romualdez, told reporters last month. He said Marcos was preparing for that visit, and officials from Manila would meet with American companies to discuss investments in nuclear energy.

Meetings with overseas Filipinos

In Singapore, Marcos is expected to have separate meetings with President Haliman Yakob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that are expected to further bilateral cooperation.

“President Marcos Jr. and Prime Minister Lee will also witness the signing of agreements in the areas of counter-terrorism and data privacy,” the department said, without giving details.

Marcos is also expected to meet with business leaders in the city-state and invite them to invest in the Philippines, which is considered a middle-income ASEAN member.

In addition, Marcos will meet with the Filipino communities in both Indonesia and Singapore “to personally assure them of the government’s continuing commitment to protect their rights and promote their welfare as overseas Filipinos.”

After being elected president in 2016, Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, made Laos his first official foreign destination when he attended an ASEAN summit hosted by Vientiane that year. However afterwards, Duterte gave primacy to China, visiting the Asian superpower five times during his six-year tenure.

The Philippines, like ASEAN states Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, has territorial claims or maritime boundaries in the South China Sea that overlap with Beijing’s sweeping claims in the waterway.


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