President Biden congratulates Marcos on Philippine election win

Jojo Riñoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
President Biden congratulates Marcos on Philippine election win Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the presumptive Philippine president-elect, greets supporters at his headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, May 11, 2022.

U.S. President Joe Biden called Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the presumptive winner of the Philippine presidential election, to congratulate him Thursday for his landslide victory even though official tallies have yet to be announced.

This came as the Marcos transition team began filling his likely cabinet because the next six years comprising his term are expected to be crucial as the Southeast Asian nation moves to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout. Marcos is the son of Ferdinand E. Marcos, the late Filipino dictator whose brutal rule included 14 years of martial law.

In a brief telephone conversation on Thursday morning (Manila time), Biden expressed his hope of boosting the relationship with Manila that was tested by the administration of outgoing leader Rodrigo Duterte, who moved the country closer to Beijing and away from Washington. 

“President Biden underscored that he looks forward to working with the president-elect to continue strengthening the U.S.-Philippine Alliance, while expanding bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including the fight against COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, promoting broad-based economic growth and respect for human rights,” the White House said in a statement.

Marcos’ father, who ruled from 1965 to 1986, was one of America’s staunchest allies in Southeast Asia. At the height of the Cold War, he crucially allowed the U.S. military to maintain two large bases on Philippine soil, at Subic Bay and the Clark air field.

Biden’s conversation with Marcos came a day after Chinese President Xi Jinping sent him a similar congratulatory message.

The Philippines, an archipelago nation, lies in the middle of the contested South China Sea and is one of the claimant countries involved in territorial disputes. Beijing claims the waterway almost in its entirety and has embarked on a program of military expansionism that includes the construction of artificial islands.

In recent years, U.S. administrations have been trying to counter the growing Chinese military presence by dispatching aircraft carriers into the South China Sea or the Taiwan Strait.

Attorney Vic Rodriguez, the spokesman for Marcos Jr., said Manila’s relationship with Washington stood to improve in the new administration, but he did not elaborate.

“As far as our relationship with the United States, under the administration of President-Elect Bongbong, I assure you now that it will get better,” Rodriguez told Manila broadcaster ABS-CBN News Channel, using a popular nickname for Marcos.

Economy will be a priority

Marcos has yet to release his blueprint for the economy or plans to solve other problems facing the nation. Throughout his campaign, he spoke about uniting the Philippines, one of the region’s oldest democracies.

During his first public news appearance Wednesday night, Marcos Jr. said he was choosing his economic team carefully, but did not give any specifics.

“The economic managers are going to be critical for the next several years because of the pandemic and economic crisis, so that is something that we are looking at very carefully,” he said.

Marcos Jr. said he would work with the executive committee who helped with his campaign along with experts in various fields.

His father and the family patriarch, Ferdinand E. Marcos, was one of Asia’s most infamous dictators who declared martial law in 1972.

The Marcos family, whose actions created bitter divisions among Filipinos that linger today, is known to have plundered up to U.S. $10 billion from the nation’s coffers before a “People’s Power” uprising ousted Marcos Sr. from power in 1986, forcing the family to flee to Hawaii. Two years after Marcos Sr. died in 1989, his survivors returned to the Philippines and resumed their political efforts, culminating with this week’s election.

Protesters prepare signs ahead of an anti-Marcos rally at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, May 12, 2022. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]

Economic boost 

Meanwhile, the economy grew by more than 8 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to government data released on Thursday.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that main contributors for the 8.3 percent growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) were the manufacturing and retail trades. 

“I think that the big driver of this growth is our full reopening of our economy. I think that is the single most important driver,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told journalists.

“Our strong economic performance moves us closer to achieving our growth target of 7 percent to 9 percent this year, but we will not rest on our laurels. We will continuously work hard to strengthen our domestic economy against heightened external risks such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and China’s slowdown,” Chua said.

Michael Ricafort, chief economist of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., among the largest private domestic banks in the Philippines, told television ANC that without Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it would have been easy for the Philippines to reach its 2022 growth target.

“If not for that, the 7 percent would have been easily achieved this year but definitely, we have seen the further reopening of many sectors, many industries like tourism,” Ricafort said.

“Later this year, it’s possible we’ll be back to pre-COVID level. The country will be back to its growth path because this has been ongoing,” he said.

Carlos Dominguez, the finance secretary, said the government restored many jobs by shifting to a more endemic mindset, accelerating vaccinations and implementing lockdowns that targeted only areas of highest risk while allowing the majority to work and earn a living.

“Even as the world was hit hard by the pandemic, our resolve to pursue reforms did not waver and even bolstered our economy’s prospects. The pandemic may have pushed back our timetable, but not our targets and resolve,” Dominguez said.

“The Philippine economy is a strong and steady ship ready for whatever storms that might lie ahead. We have set the sails for the next administration to achieve rapid and more inclusive growth in 2022 and beyond,” he said.

After partial unofficial counts following Monday’s vote showed Marcos Jr. had likely won, the American financial services giant J.P. Morgan dropped the Philippines to the bottom of an investment list behind Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. 

Marcos spokesman Rodriguez argued that the J.P. Morgan statement “should be taken in the context of a political statement rather than from the standpoint of economic managers.” 

Basilio Sepe in Manila contributed to this report.


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June Low
May 13, 2022 04:23 PM

Respected Aithor/Reporter, Following is what Vic Rodriguez said:

J.P. Morgan's downgrade of the Philippines was "taken out of context," the spokesperson of leading presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr said Thursday.

"They were not referring to president-elect or the ascendency of president-elect Bongbong Marcos. Other statements made by so-called economists, I think it should be taken in the context of it was made a political statement than from a standpoint of economic managers," lawyer Vic Rodriguez told ANC's Headstart. See link below

May 13, 2022 08:32 PM

Spokesperson said that it is not political statement and taken out of context. You should correct your last line.