Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

What you need to know: Marcos’ trip to Riyadh for ASEAN-GCC Summit

Dwight de Leon

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What you need to know: Marcos’ trip to Riyadh for ASEAN-GCC Summit

CHIEF EXECUTIVE. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers a speech during the launching of the 2023 Mariano Marcos State University-Philippine Rice Research Institute rice paddy art in September 2023.

Presidential Communications Office

Marcos' agenda includes pitching the Maharlika fund, discussing migrant issues, and joining talks on how the ASEAN-GCC Summit could help curb rising fuel prices here at home

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is once again leaving the country for an official trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Thursday, October 19.

That would be his ninth trip for the year, and 15th since he became president.

He will take part in the first-ever summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Friday, October 20.

Here’s what you need to know about the trip.

What is the summit about?

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the two regional organizations seek to bolster ties by endorsing a framework of cooperation during the one-day summit.

The two formations first made official contact in 1990 and, since 2009, have held four ministerial meetings.

Assistant Foreign Secretary Daniel Espiritu said the Gulf states could offer assistance to ASEAN on issues related to energy and food security.

“Since most of these hub economies are advanced in terms of operations of supply chains and ports and shipping and connectivity, they could very well help ASEAN in the problems with supply chain disruption in the past several years,” Espiritu said on Monday, October 16.

Since supply activity is among the expected points of discussion in the summit, the DFA hopes the event could help mitigate rising oil prices in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

“If the two original organizations can cooperate on that and assure each of a continued and reliable supply in spite of what we called the vicissitudes of energy economics and the geopolitical instabilities… we can assure ASEAN of a continued and consistent volume of supply through the year,” Espiritu added.

Six countries comprise the GCC – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The organization is based in Riyadh, the host of the inaugural ASEAN-GCC Summit.

ASEAN has 10-member states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

What is in the President’s agenda?

The President is expected to woo foreign investors as he puts on the table his administration’s pet legislation – the newly established Maharlika Investment Fund, similar to what he did in past trips abroad.

Another talking point is the Arab world’s assistance to the development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

He is also slated to discuss issues concerning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, such as protection mechanisms for them, and the settlement of unpaid salaries of OFWs employed by construction firms that later went bankrupt.

Other activities in the President’s schedule include possible bilateral meetings with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and a meeting with the Filipino community before the start of the summit on Friday.

Who’s joining Marcos?

The DFA said Marcos’ team in Riyadh will be a “lean group,” composed of officials from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), DFA, and Department of Migrant Workers.

Speaker Martin Romualdez, the cousin of the President and a savvy businessman, has been with the President in most of his foreign trips, so it is likely he will join the ASEAN-GCC Summit as well.

Will the Israel-Hamas war be discussed?

Marcos’ trip to the Middle East could not have come at a more restless time, nearly two weeks after the war between Israel and Hamas militants broke out.

Over 1,300 people have been killed in Israel due to a surprise attack by the militant fighters, while more than 2,600 fatalities have been recorded in Gaza after Israel launched retaliatory attacks.

“They will also discuss regional and international issues, among those would definitely be the current developments in the Middle East, but we have to remember these countries are not exactly, directly, involved in the conflict, so probably, the discussion will dwell on generalities,” DFA’s Espiritu said. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.