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MANILA, Philippines – As presidents are expected to make clear their vision and priorities for the country in their first 100 days in office, the international trips they make during that period are an indication of the foreign policy they are shaping.
Or, sometimes, they don’t take foreign trips during this period until they have settled in office.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is not one to waste time, and hopped on a plane for official and state visits, as well as an obviously leisure trip, in his first 100 days in office. In fact, he has had the most number of international travels during the same period compared to other Philippine presidents since after the EDSA Revolution that toppled his father, dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Most former Philippine heads of government opted to first visit other Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries in their first 100 days in power. Outside the ASEAN, the United States is the priority destination for official trips by Philippine presidents.
There are no records of former president Corazon Aquino having made an international trip in her first 100 days in office. The 11th Philippine president’s first official foreign trip was on August 25, 1986, to Indonesia. That was exactly 181 days after her inauguration in February that year.
In his speech about the first 100 days of his presidency, delivered on October 8, 1992, President Fidel Ramos mentioned having just returned from Brunei Darussalam. He reported that on that trip, he consulted with other ASEAN countries concerning regional diplomacy.
The 13th president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada, did not have any international trip in his first 100 days in office. His maiden out-of-the-country trip as president happened on October 11, 1998, or 103 days after his inauguration. He went to Singapore to meet with then-president Ong Teng Cheong.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s first international trip also did not occur within her first 100 days in office. She traveled 199 days after her inauguration, to Malaysia, on August 7, 2001. As vice president, she had assumed the presidency in January that year after Estrada was ousted.
Benigno Aquino III
The only foreign trip made by president Benigno Aquino III in his first 100 days in office was a visit to the United States from September 20 to 26, 2010, to attend and address the 65th United Nations General Assembly.
In his speech, Aquino called for the strengthening of international cooperation in the pursuit of global development goals, the protection of marginalized communities, and the reinforcement of human rights. The 15th president of the Philippines said, “The central revelation here is that, for humanity to progress, all nations must progress as one.”
On September 5, 2016, president Rodrigo Duterte visited Vientiane, Laos, for his first out-of-country trip. He participated in the 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and the 11th East Asia Summit.
On the sidelines, Duterte held bilateral meetings with the prime ministers of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong; Japan, Shinzo Abe; Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc; Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith; New Zealand, John Phillip Key; and Russia, Dmitry Medvedev.
In particular, these meetings discussed the issues of maritime security, social and economic development, illegal drugs, and international trade, among others.
After Laos, Duterte immediately went to Indonesia, where he had his first-ever state visit from September 8 to 9, 2016.
He met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss matters concerning illegal drugs – particularly with regard to the case of Filipina death row convict Mary Jane Veloso – and Philippine-Indonesian relations.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the meeting between Duterte and Widodo culminated in a joint statement “calling for the effective implementation of measures to address security concerns in the maritime areas of common concern.”
Duterte went to Vietnam for his third foreign trip from September 28 to 29, 2016. He and Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang called for a peaceful resolution to territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. The two Southeast Asian leaders also announced a six-year action plan that aimed to address the proliferation of transnational crimes and illicit drug trade.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The first international trip of the 17th president of the Philippines was a state visit to Indonesia from September 4 to 6, 2022. During President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, they discussed and signed a handful of agreements, one of which was the Philippines-Indonesia Plan of Action – a five-year action plan of commitment and cooperation between both countries with regard to security, trade, and sustainability, among others.
Marcos proceeded to Singapore for a state visit. From September 6 to 7, the Philippine president had separate meetings with Singaporean President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
His third foreign trip was a working visit to the United States, around a week after the President’s stay in Singapore. Marcos addressed the United Nations General Assembly, where he discussed pervasive social issues, such as climate change, inflation, and the protection of marginalized sectors.
During the working visit, the President met with various US business leaders to discuss plans to bolster the country’s social and economic development.
President Marcos then returned to Singapore to watch the Formula 1 night race on October 2. The trip drew heavy criticism from the Filipino public, who said the “luxurious” jaunt was insensitive in light of rising inflation and the recent devastation brought about by Typhoon Karding.
Then-press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles defended the visit, reporting in a Facebook post that the second trip to Singapore was “productive” as it “reinforced discussions held during the last state visit.” – Miguel Batallones/Rappler.com
Miguel Batallones is a Rappler intern.