Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

[Pastilan] World traveler Bongbong Marcos strikes again

Herbie Gomez

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[Pastilan] World traveler Bongbong Marcos strikes again

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

'This gathering of the global elite is nothing more than an exercise in self-congratulation and mutual back-scratching. Marcos and his ilk are just trying to fit in.'

Davos got several heads of state and other big shots coming to this shindig. It’s like the Oscars of business and politics. And it looks like the guest list is lit.

As I write this, Bongbong Marcos is on his way to Switzerland supposedly to talk about his economic plans and attract some foreign investments. He says he’s going to highlight the country’s plans for developing resilient infrastructure, reinforcing supply chains, and strengthening food security. And, of course, he wants to talk about how they’re going to handle the next pandemic.

But here’s the real kicker: the “soft launch” of his proposed Maharlika Investment Fund. Given that he’s the only world leader from Southeast Asia and one of two from Asia who’s confirmed attendance, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if this “soft launch” will fly or crash and burn.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the words “Maharlika,” “sovereign wealth fund,” and “seed capital from state-owned banks” together, it makes me think of a big ol’ piggy bank for the government to raid. But, hey, maybe I’m just being cynical.

This guy is a world traveler. This is his eighth official work trip as president, and he’s only been in office for seven months. He’s been to seven countries, most recently China for a 48-hour state visit. I’m telling you, he’s got more frequent flier miles than a damn pilot!

In Davos, the real showstopper is likely going to be the Marcos-led Philippine delegation. Oh well, that’s a doozy. He is said to be leading a delegation of at least 70 people, but nobody knows who they are or what they do. We’re just sending a bunch of people, about 70 of them, and nobody knows why.

The real absurdity comes in the form of the size of this Marcos delegation despite the country’s impoverished population. The transparency of this decision is questionable, to say the least. 

Talk has it that they’re staying in Zurich – the Hyatt hotels in Zurich, to be exact – because they’re too late for Davos where hotels were fully booked long before Junior decided to go. 

Marcos and his travel buddies go to Davos using the same old pretense – that is, to seek international recognition for the country. But the reality is that they are merely rubbing shoulders with the global elite, attempting to gain credibility and legitimacy by association. It’s like they’re just trying to get a photo with the cool kids to show off to their friends back home.

I know some might be thinking, “But isn’t Davos a good thing for business and the economy?” Well, neither experience nor studies support the premise of that question about this fancy party.

Past Davos visits by our presidents achieved very little, if anything at all. And this eighth Marcos junket most likely won’t be any different. It won’t result in anything substantial beyond some investors supposedly expressing interest to expand and new businesses committing to bring investments into the country. 

Does it pay off to attend Davos? According to academic scholars cited by my friend Nono (columnist Antonio J. Montalvan II), the answer is no. 

It is a gathering dominated by first-world economies. In other words, this thing in Davos is nothing more than a spectacle of the rich and powerful congratulating themselves on their wealth and influence, while achieving nothing of substance for the majority of the world’s population.

This gathering of the global elite is nothing more than an exercise in self-congratulation and mutual back-scratching. It’s a party organized for rich and powerful people patting themselves on the back for being rich and powerful. It’s a disgraceful display of elitism and self-importance.

So, that’s the World Economic Forum in Switzerland – a bunch of rich people getting together to talk about how they’re going to make even more money. And we are sending about 70 people to stay in fancy hotels, just to be a part of it. 

Marcos and his ilk are just trying to fit in. But let’s be real – they’re better off spending that money on something that will actually benefit us, Filipinos. Like, I don’t know, lower the prices of onion and scrambled eggs. But that’s just me.

Just like in the past, it’s not going to do us any good. But, hey, at least members of this delegation are not staying in some crappy hotel room, right? We can afford several presidential suites, for sure.

And let’s not forget, this whole thing is being held in Switzerland, which has received international pressure because of a banking system that has been friendly to wealthy and powerful people who always look for ways to keep their riches all hidden from the rest of us.

In the meantime, in the Visayas and Mindanao, people are out there swimming in their homes, trying to save their belongings, while this government is still trying to find its own excuses for this junket in Switzerland.

It’s a damn shame. They just talked about “disaster resilience” and “mitigation” during Marcos’ visit to flood-devastated Misamis Occidental and Gingoog City in eastern Misamis Oriental, but it’s like they’re trying to fix a leaky roof during a typhoon. It’s too late!

Meanwhile, we are all just trying to keep our heads above water (pun intended). Pastilan. – Rappler.com

Herbie Gomez is Rappler’s regional coordinator for Mindanao.

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.