RECAP: Marcos’ int’l trips in first 7 months in office

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21) — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will soon be returning from his visit to Davos, Switzerland, and is set to fly to Japan by next month – his 9th international trip in a little over seven months in office.

From his inaugural trip to Indonesia to his latest attendance at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Switzerland, what has the country gained from these trips so far?

Official, semi-official visits

Marcos’ first international trip was a three-day state visit to Indonesia from Sept. 4 to 6, 2022 upon the invitation of President Joko Widodo.

After Jakarta, Marcos headed straight to Singapore for another state visit. The chief executive met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other officials to sign agreements.

READ: Marcos leaves for Indonesia, Singapore to 'harvest' investments 

In the same month, Marcos represented the country at the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in the US where he met with several heads of state along the sidelines including one with US President Joe Biden.

Marcos then drew crticism early in October when he was seen a second time in Singapore to watch the F1 Grand Prix.

The trip upon the invitation of Singapore’s Prime Minister was unannounced to the public and was later on revealed as “partly official” and “partly personal.” 

The following month, the President attended the 40th and 41st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits in Cambodia – marking his first appearance on the ASEAN stage.

World leaders he met during his trip to Phnom Penh included Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Marcos then flew to Thailand, three days after arriving from Cambodia, to attend the 29th Leaders’ Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

It was during his trip to Bangkok when he first met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The chief executive ended 2022 with an official three-day trip to Belgium for a summit between leaders from ASEAN and the European Union. 

Just after New Year celebrations, Marcos visited China amid the surge in COVID-19 cases in the region.

RELATED: Marcos state visit to China 'very important' to PH economy, says business group 

Following his six-day trip to Switzerland, Marcos is set leave for Japan in February for another state visit. 

Bilateral ties, investment pledges

Among all his visits, Marcos tackled several issues, inked agreements and took home investment pledges promising thousands of possible jobs for Filipinos.

According to the Department of Trade and Industry, the chief executive’s state visits to Indonesia, Singapore, US, Cambodia, and Thailand have generated $23.6 billion in investment pledges.

Marcos’ Belgium trip, meanwhile, spawned around ₱9.8 billion worth of investment pledges, the Palace reported.

His trip to China lured in $22.8 billion in investment pledges. Despite maritime conflicts in the West Philippine Sea, Manila and Beijing also signed 14 bilateral agreements that are expected to strengthen the nations’ ties. 

Aside from pledges, which mainly focused on the business, agriculture, transportation, energy and technology sectors, Marcos also tackled separate issues in his visits.

In Jakarta, the Philippine government asked for an executive clemency for Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina on death row due to possession of illegal drugs. 

In a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman in Thailand, the Saudi official pledged to set aside 2 billion riyals that covers unpaid wages of displaced Filipino workers due to bankruptcy of their contractors. 

The Philippines also committed to export at least 54,000 metric tons of durian to China.

Call to focus locally

Although garnering billions in pledges, experts point out that these promises first have to be converted to hard investments before the country reaps actual benefits.

“I think that we should go beyond the signing MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) or the photo ops, and instead, after all those things are done, we hope to see the fruition,” Philippine Ambassador to China Jaime FlorCruz told CNN Philippines’ Politics As Usual after Marcos’ trip to Beijing.

Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines president Michael Guarin previously told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word that conversion of these pledges to hard cash may take time.

“It won't be immediate, but we're hoping that hard cash...would come in within the next 12 months,” Guarin said in October.

Some groups also called for the chief executive to curb his trips abroad and focus on domestic crises instead, saying the President is “spending too much time on trips abroad at the cost of neglecting the urgent needs of Filipinos.”

“It’s concerning that some of the statements made at Davos clearly go against the interests of the Filipino people and the planet,” said Lia Mai Torres, executive director of Center for Environmental Concerns.

ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, meanwhile, said the President’s trips should be scrutinized as the people have the right to know of the results and what the trips are for.

“The people have the right to know kung ano talaga ang resulta nitong walong trips na ito na hindi pa narereport at talagang dapat na bantayan itong mga ganitong trips,” Castro told CNN Philippines’ The Final Word.

[Translation: The people have the right to know the results of these eight trips, which are not reported yet. And these trips should really be closely watched.]

Marcos in a briefing in Davos explained that his trips are meant to “introduce the Philippines to investors.”

“This is a process, we don’t go one time and go home and everybody’s going to invest. Hindi ganon (It’s not like that), we have to introduce them to the Philippines again,” he said.

The President, along with his delegation, is set to arrive back in the country Saturday afternoon from his trip to Switzerland.