Marcos Jr. administration

President Marcos Jr.’s 2023 in foreign travels, wrapped

Dwight de Leon

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President Marcos Jr.’s 2023 in foreign travels, wrapped

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and First Lazy Liza Araneta Marcos depart Tokyo on December 18, 2023, after the conclusion of their four-day visit to Japan for the Commemorative Summit on the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

Presidential Communications Office

President Marcos left the Philippines 11 times this year and visited nine countries. Rappler revisits recurring themes and key moments of his foreign travels in 2023.

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. continued to be a jet-setting chief executive in 2023, nearly doubling the number of international trips he made in the past 12 months.

Except for March and June, he traveled abroad at least once a month this year.

11 trips, 9 countries

Marcos left the country 11 times this year, a summary of which can be found below:

  1. January 3 to 6 – Beijing, China
  2. January 15 to 20 – Davos, Switzerland
  3. February 8 to 12 – Tokyo, Japan
  4. April 30 to May 4 – Washington DC, United States;
  5. May 9 to 11 – Labuan Bajo, Indonesia
  6. July 25 to 27 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  7. September 4 to 7 – Jakarta, Indonesia
  8. September 13 to 17 – Singapore
  9. October 19 to 21 – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  10. November 14 to 19 – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, US
  11. December 15 to 18 – Tokyo, Japan

This year, he visited three countries twice: US, Japan, and Indonesia.

Since he assumed the presidency, the countries he visited the most – with a total of three visits each – are the US, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Majority were working visits

Seven out of 11 foreign trips by the President were working visits: his attendance at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, his meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Japan, his participation in two legs of the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia, his address at the Milken Institute’s Asia Summit in Singapore, his attendance at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Summit in the US, and his participation in the ASEAN–Japan Friendship and Cooperation Commemorative Summit in Japan.

Marcos’ separate meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in their respective countries were classified as state visits, while Marcos’ meeting with US President Joe Biden and his attendance at the coronation of King Charles III were counted as official visits.

One canceled trip

President Marcos was supposed to fly to Dubai on November 30 for the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), but called it off at the last minute, citing “important developments in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea.”

Cozying up to the US
Clothing, Pants, Adult
US President Joe Biden welcomes Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to the White House in May 2023. Photo from Presidential Communications Office.

Marcos solidified Manila’s pivot to Washington with a visit to the White House in May, the first time for a Philippine president in over a decade.

The two countries affirmed their commitment to stronger military cooperation, amid escalating tensions between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

In Hawaii, Marcos emphasized that the US is the Philippines’ oldest partner, and that his administration needs Washington and other allies to protect the country’s sovereignty amid the maritime dispute.

During his stopover in the island state, he also made a rare visit to the US Indo-Pacific Command, which is the US military’s biggest unified geographic combatant command.

Concern over China’s actions

Marcos has used the international stage to sound the alarm over China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea.

In Indonesia, he called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to “oppose the dangerous use of coast guard and maritime militia vessels in the South China Sea.”

He told an audience in Hawaii that the Chinese military’s reclamation activities have “become closer and closer to the Philippine coastline.”

In Japan, he said diplomatic ties with Beijing were “headed in a poor direction.”

Rehabilitation of Marcos family’s image

He may not admit it, but Marcos’ foreign trips allow him to repair what the world thinks of his family.

In Washington, President Joe Biden remarked that Marcos’ last visit to the White House was in the 1980s, when his dictator-father Marcos Sr. was Philippine president. Marcos Sr. had been a close ally of then-US president Ronald Reagan, but relations soured after Marcos was kicked out of office in 1986.

In an interview in Switzerland in January, he recalled that his family’s time in exile in Hawaii was a dark chapter for the Marcoses. When he returned to the island-state for the first time in over three decades in November, the President turned to nostalgia and thanked the Filipino diaspora “who kept us alive.”

A promise of investments

Marcos has been criticized for his foreign travels, which some observers believe are excessive. These included the huge delegation he brought with him to Switzerland, and brief trip to Singapore to watch the F1 Grand Prix.

People, Person, Flower
Marcos meets with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who invited the Philippine president for a second consecutive year to attend the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix. Photo from Presidential Communications Office.

Malacañang has justified his trips by saying the President brings home investment pledges that would result in more livelihood opportunities, and would expedite the country’s post-pandemic recovery.

In November, the Department of Trade and Industry said the government has logged P427 billion in foreign investment approvals from January to September 2023, which was supposedly a 4,150-percentage-point spike from the same period in 2022.

DTI said top investors were from Germany – which the agency said was a result of Marcos’ roundtable discussion with business leaders in Brussels in December 2022.

In Tokyo, Marcos’ adviser also said his first trip to Japan in February already resulted in P169 billion in actualized investments. – 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.