MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to debut in the international arena this week at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), where he is scheduled to deliver a speech before the world’s most important diplomatic gathering on Wednesday, September 21 (Manila time).
Marcos, most known abroad as the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, is the first Philippine leader to physically attend the summit in eight years. The President traveled to New York specifically for the gathering, where he is expected to meet world leaders including United States President Joe Biden.
His travel to the US is likewise his first publicly known trip to the country in decades. Joined by members of his family, the President’s trip itself has drawn attention owing to an existing contempt judgment issued by a US court against him and his mother over a human rights class suit filed against his father.
As a head of state, Marcos is granted diplomatic immunity, allowing him to step foot in the US without the threat of arrest in connection with the decades-old case.
Before departing the Philippines last Sunday, Marcos said he will bring up “economic recovery, food security, and agricultural productivity” in his speech at the UNGA. Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the President’s address would likewise touch on climate change, rule of law, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Marcos is currently slated as the 18th speaker on the first day of the high-level general debate that will run until September 26. Some 152 other heads of state and government are expected to address the UNGA, including Biden, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, and France’s Emmanuel Macron.
The upcoming summit – the first to be held physically in over two years – takes place under the shadow of the ongoing war in Ukraine, COVID-19 pandemic, food shortages, as well as mounting environmental crisis.
“The General Assembly is meeting at a time of great peril,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently. The assembly, he added, should provide a platform of debate, dialogue, and proposed solutions to address current crises.
In a recent press briefing, the DFA underscored the importance of Marcos’ attendance at the high-profile gathering. “It marks his first engagement with the United Nations, which the Philippine recognizes as the world’s most important multilateral organization,” DFA Assistant Secretary Kira Chirstianne Azucena said.
Marcos is also expected to meet with other world leaders on the sidelines of the summit, though details on who the President would meet have yet to be announced.
Duterte, Marcos legacy
Less than a month after a landslide win in the Philippine elections, Marcos’ camp said the new President was mulling attending the UN summit, described as a “historic opportunity” for the Philippine leader to share his new vision for the country.
“It would be very important to attend and represent the Philippines in the General Assembly and meet with other world leaders,” said Marcos in early June.
While Marcos faces the challenge of confronting his family’s infamous history, he likewise takes off in the aftermath of the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody drug war drew strong concern and criticism from UN experts and the international community.
The 77th UNGA, in particular also comes against the backdrop of a joint human rights program that started under Duterte and will continue under Marcos. The UN joint human rights program is the operational project of a 2020 Human Rights Council resolution to provide the Philippines with technical cooperation to solve human rights problems, including killings in Duterte’s war on drugs.
In a meeting with UN representative to the Philippines Gustavo González in June, Marcos, according to the UN official, “mentioned also the importance of ensuring high-level of accountability in terms of human rights.”
Expectations are likewise high for the new President and whether he would raise the Philippines’ legal victory over China in the West Philippine Sea. Duterte had raised he 2016 Hague Ruling in a video address during the 2020 assembly, a historic move that later saw the support of countries including the US, Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Denmark, and the European Union. – Rappler.com