Marcos Jr. administration

Marcos’ official US visit: What you need to know

Bea Cupin

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Marcos’ official US visit: What you need to know
The Philippine President is set to visit the US for the second time in under a year

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. visits the United States for the second time in his presidency from April 30 to May 4, 2023, for an official visit to Washington, DC.

While in Washington, Marcos will be meeting with US President Joe Biden, other top American government officials, and American business leaders, to name a few.

Here’s what you need to know about the jet-setting president’s latest trip – the first in a three-country blitz throughout the month of May.

What is he doing there?

The official visit – an official working visit, according to the US Embassy in the Philippines – begins with a bilateral meeting at the White House. This will be his second high-level meeting with Biden – the first was in September 2022, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Following that meeting, Marcos will join an “expanded meeting” with Cabinet officials. Marcos is also expected to have meetings with legislators, and American business leaders throughout the trip.

On May 4, to wrap up his visit, Marcos will be hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a DC-based think tank, for a “conversation.” A Filipino community event is almost surely on the schedule, as Marcos has done in previous trips abroad.

Marcos is scheduled to have other engagements, but the Palace has yet to make the details of these activities public.

An official working visit is the third-highest type of visit from a head of state or head of government in the US, with the state visit being the highest.

Why is he flying to the US again?

The Philippines, as one of five treaty partners of the US in the region, is critical in their Indo-Pacific strategy. The Philippines, too, sees its relationship with the US as essential – Marcos himself had once waxed poetic about being unable to imagine a future of the Philippines without the US.

According to the White House, “President Biden will reaffirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, and the leaders will discuss efforts to strengthen the longstanding US-Philippines alliance.”

Malacañang meanwhile said that the visit is “aimed at reaffirming the special relationship between the Philippines and the United States”

Marcos, in an interview with his former social services secretary Erwin Tulfo, said he intends to bring up the 71-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries because they need to “evolve” according to the current geopolitical situation.

The economy is also a top agenda, even as Malacañang has not expounded on who Marcos will be meeting outside of Biden. Marcos, in the same interview with Tulfo, said he wants to bring up green bonds, or debt the US issues for “for use in sustainability-focused projects.” Employment opportunities for Filipinos – especially in the health sector – is another thing Marcos said he wants to bring up.

American and Filipino ties have dramatically warmed since Marcos took power. His predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, moved the Philippines away from its traditional ally in his failed “pivot” to China.

Since taking office, Marcos has hosted three top US officials in Malacañang – Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Days before flying to DC, Marcos graced the largest-ever iteration of Balikatan, the annual military exercises under the MDT. He is the first president in recent history to have attended the games himself.

Who is going with him?

Malacañang, as in previous trips, has yet to release a full list of the delegation joining Marcos in Washington DC. Several Cabinet members, including Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, will be with the President in his engagements. Since economy and defense talk are bound to take prominence, members of the economic and defense clusters of the Cabinet are expected to be part of the official visit.

First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos is also expected to accompany the President, as in previous trips. It’s unclear if their sons – one of whom is a high-ranking freshman legislator – will be flying in with them to Washington DC. The President’s adults sons have joined him in official trips in the past, including the September 2022 working visit to the US.

Business leaders will also be flying into DC for the official visit, although neither the Palace nor the Foreign Affairs Department have disclosed the names of those joining the business delegation of the trip. Sabine Aboitiz, Marcos’ friend who heads the Private Sector Advisory Council, led the business delegation during the President’s first visit to the US in September 2022.

The threat of arrest?

There continues to exist a standing contempt judgment against Marcos in connection with a human rights class suit against his late dictator-father. But as President of the Philippines, he enjoys diplomatic immunity.

His first visit to the US as chief executive for the UNGA went by without any hitches, at least in relation to US authorities.

Where to, next?

Seemingly unfazed by criticism that he’s traveled too much not even a year into office, the US trip is just one of three trips he’s making in May 2023. Following the official visit, Marcos will go to London to attend the coronation of King Charles III.

He then heads to Labuan Bajo in Indonesia, where the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit will be held.

The US visit will be Marcos’ fourth trip in 2023 alone. All in all, he has been to nine countries – the US, twice – since assuming office in June 2022. Aside from the UK and Indonesia visits after the US, Marcos is expected to visit France for a state visit and the US again in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.