Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcos in Indonesia and Singapore: Ties to the region, ties to the past

Bea Cupin

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Marcos in Indonesia and Singapore: Ties to the region, ties to the past

Key officials in Indonesia welcome President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Marcos as they arrive in Jakarta. Office of the President/Facebook

Office of the President/Facebook

From deals signed to who tagged along, here's what you need to know about the President's first trips abroad

MANILA, Philippines – Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s earliest events in his first trips abroad as president easily resembled a sortie from the 2022 campaign. 

As campaign songs for the Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem blasted on the Facebook livestream, an emcee served as both hype man and announcer, encouraging those gathered to cheer the President’s nickname and to proclaim, in different ways, their love and loyalty to the second Marcos president. 

Ano ang pangarap mo para sa isang bagong Pilipinas (What’s your dream for a new Philippines)?” one Filipino at the Ho Bee Auditorium at the National University of Singapore was asked. 

“Pagbabago, bigyan tayo ng hanapbuhay sa Pilipinas para makasama na natin ang aming pamilya (Change, for us to be given livelihood in the Philippines so we can be with our family again),” she replied.

Her compatriots would give variations of the same answer.

The economy, after all, was front and center of Marcos’ goals in traveling to two Southeast Asian neighbors, Indonesia and Singapore, from September 4 to 7. 

“So I leave to undertake my first state visits to our immediate neighbors, Indonesia and Singapore. In other words, ako ay mangangapit-bahay para sa ating bansa at para sa ating ekonomiya (I’ll be visiting our neighbors for the sake of our country and our economy),” said Marcos on September 4, before he took off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for Indonesia. 

In those two visits, Marcos also solidified the overseas Filipino mandate he had won just months back. Marcos lost in only two areas abroad, Indonesia and Singapore were certainly not among them. 

As in most state visits – or visits upon the invitation of another head of state – Marcos and his delegation’s itinerary was filled with meetings, both ceremonial and social.

Here’s a summary of what transpired from September 4 to 7, 2022 – from the deals signed and meals shared to other things of note from President Marcos’ first state visits: 

ORCHID DIPLOMACY. President Marcos and his wife, Liza, are presented a hybrid orchid that’s named after them.
What was brought home 

Upon his arrival in Manila, Marcos described his trip as “fruitful and engaging.” Here are the deals signed in the presence of Marcos and his counterparts in Indonesia and Singapore, as released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA): 

In Indonesia 
  1. Philippines-Indonesia Plan of Action for the period of 2022-2027
  2. Agreement on Cooperative Activities in the Field of Defense and Security (DSCA)
  3. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Cooperation on the Development and Promotion of Creative Economy
  4. MOU between National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology of Indonesia on Cultural Cooperation
In Singapore 
  1. Arrangement Concerning the Assignment of a Team to the Regional Counter-Terrorism Information Facility in Singapore between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Singapore Armed Forces
  2. MOU in the Field of Digital Cooperation between the Department of Information and Communications Technology of the Philippines and the Ministry of Communications and Information of Singapore
  3. MOU for collaboration on the development of New Clark City, between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) of the Philippines and Enterprise Singapore
  4. Renewal of MOU on Cooperation in Personal Data Protection between the National Privacy Commission of the Philippines and the Personal Data Protection Commission of Singapore
  5. Renewal of MOU on Water Collaboration between the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System of the Philippines and the Public Utilities Board of Singapore

Also in Singapore, the Philippines’ Department of Migrant Workers and the Singaporean Ministry of Health signed a joint communiqué on the recruitment of Filipino healthcare workers. The DFA also said the Philippines and Singapore were looking to renew a 2019 MOU between the Philippines’ Department of Education and Nanyang Polytechnic International and Temasek Foundation. 

More details about the deals signed can be found here and here

All in all, 10 Letters of Intent and 12 MOUs were signed between the Philippines and its two neighbors during the state visits. LOIs and MOUs were also signed with Indonesian and Singapore investors, the details of which Malacañang has yet to release. 

According to Marcos, the investments signed during the visits were worth P804.78 billion. This article will be updated with the details of those deals once the Palace makes them available. 

What they talked about 

In Indonesia, Marcos spoke with President Joko Widodo. In Singapore, Marcos met both President Halima Jacob and Prime Minister Lee Hseing Loong. 

In a joint press statement on September 5 at the Bohor Presidential Palace in West Java, Indonesia, President Widodo said they “encouraged a significant increase in our trade folio.” In particular, Widodo highlighted increasing exports in food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, coconut, and seaweed products, and improving shipping routes between the two countries. 

The Indonesian President also highlighted efforts towards “intensifying cooperation in infrastructure and strategic industries,” and “strengthening border cooperation.” 

The two also spoke on the delimitation of continental shelf based on UNCLOS 1982, a discussion that started in 2014 through the signing of an agreement under the administration of the late Benigno Aquino III and solidified as a treaty under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. 

Defense and security was also a major topic in Marcos and Widodo’s discussions, as well as Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) discussions. Indonesia is set to chair the ASEAN in 2023. 

Marcos, during the joint press statement and in a media conference in Jakarta the day after, said he was glad over both the breadth and depth of their discussions.

“Our discussions progressed so rapidly that we, the President [Widodo] and I, have agreed to organize task forces already to meet and discuss even at a technical level, no longer at the political or the diplomatic level, but at a technical level, so as to be able to take a full advantage of the opportunities that we feel that are available to us, and that we will need to exploit to succeed in the near future,” said Marcos. 

There’s one thing that Marcos apparently did not bring up in his discussion with President Widodo: a pardon for Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina who’s been in jail since 2010 for unwittingly serving as drug mule. Instead, it was DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo who asked his counterpart for executive clemency. Indonesia said it would talk to its justice ministry.  

In Singapore, Marcos’ meetings with the President Halima and Prime Minister Lee touched on trade and investment, counterterrorism, healthcare, and digital cooperation. Singapore, in 2021, was the Philippines’ largest foreign investor with over US $1.5 billion in investments. 

Among the issues Marcos discussed with President Halima and Prime Minister Lee in their respective meetings was ASEAN’s “consistent position on the South China Sea” and the “importance of maintaining peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above the South China Sea, and peaceful resolution of disputes without resorting to threat or use of force, in accordance with international law.” 

Both Myanmar and Ukraine were also talk points in Singapore.  

A hybrid orchid, campaign jingles 

As in most working trips abroad, the President and the official delegations’ activities weren’t limited to those involving their counterparts in the host country. In both countries, Marcos met with members of the Filipino communities within hours of his arrival. 

In both countries, too, the Philippines’ economic managers and the President himself joined business roundtables or briefings with local businessmen. 

In Singapore, Marcos and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos were presented with the Dendrobium Ferdinand Louise Marcos, a hybrid orchid named after the First Couple. The Marcoses are certainly not the first Filipinos to have a Singaporean orchid named after them. “Orchid diplomacy” is Singapore’s tradition of naming hybrids after visiting world leaders. The late president Corazon Aquino and former president Rodrigo Duterte both have hybrid orchids named after them. 

Former first lady Imelda Marcos, President Marcos’ mother, was not officially a world leader but has a hybrid named after her as well. 

FIRST FAMILY. President Marcos is joined by First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos in his first trip abroad. Behind them is their son, senior House leader and first-time legislator Sandro Marcos.
When work and family mix  

The First Lady wasn’t the only family member who joined the President in Indonesia and Singapore. Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos, the First Couple’s eldest son, tagged along and joined in most official and social events, including an intimate breakfast with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee and his wife. 

Representative Marcos is also a senior House leader – even if he’s a first-time legislator – as the Senior Deputy Majority Leader of the 19th Congress. The House is led by the President’s cousin, Representative Marcos’ uncle, Leyte 1st District Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Speaker Romualdez was not part of the delegation to Indonesia and Singapore but was present during the send-off for President Marcos. 

While it’s not entirely unusual to see a senior House leader join Presidential trips, presidential sons – or at least Representative Marcos – get an inside view of the state visit. 

That the younger Marcos gets this privilege evokes images of a young Ferdinand Marcos Jr. accompanying his father, the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, on official functions. 

President Marcos made a reference to his father when he recalled a “historical and slightly personal note” in recounting his ties with Prime Minister Lee: “I remember very well that in the discussions I was still a young boy but always listening and trying to…trying to find out what was going on in my father’s office. I remember listening to him speaking on the telephone with then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and they were talking about the formation of ASEAN,” he said. 

Like President Marcos whose father was also president, Prime Minister Lee’s father was once primae minister too. Lee Kuan Yew, Lee’s father, is Singapore’s first prime minister. The first president Marcos and prime minister Lee were in power when ASEAN was founded. 

Marcos’ next foreign trip is to New York City in the United States for the 77th United Nations General Assembly also in September. – Rappler.com

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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.