MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. left Manila on Thursday, October 19, to attend the inaugural summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Saudi Arabia.
This will be a short visit for the Chief Executive, who will fly back to Manila after the one-day event concludes on Friday night, October 20.
“This Summit will serve as an important platform for the Philippines to highlight the need for cooperation in energy and food security, logistics, supply chains, digital [transformation], the free flow of goods, people, and services, as well as the enhancement and protection of the rights, of course, of our overseas workers,” said the president in his departure speech.
“We will emphasize our advocacy for a rules-based international order to maintain peace and security, stability in our regions,” he added
Aside from the summit, Marcos also plans to grace a gathering organized by the Filipino community in Riyadh on Friday morning. Meetings with the local Filipino community have been a regular feature of presidential visits abroad, even prior to the Marcos presidency.
The first ASEAN-GCC Summit aims to optimize cooperation between the two regional organizations. For Southeast Asian leaders, the event is an opportunity to seek assistance from Gulf states on issues related to energy and food security.
For Marcos, the gathering gives him another avenue to pitch his administration’s newly established sovereign wealth fund – the Maharlika fund– to foreign investors.
Despite issuing an order the day prior to suspend the implementation of the controversial fund, the president said the Maharlika fund would still be implemented by the year’s end.
“We should not misinterpret what we have done as somehow a judgment on the rightness or wrongness of the Maharlika Fund. On the contrary, we are just finding ways to make it as close to perfect and ideal as possible…. This has been in consultation not only with our economic managers but also with the people, the personalities who will actually be involved in the fund,” he said.
“And with that in mind, we are encouraged by the reaction of our friends in the Middle East and, for that matter, around the world to the fund, and we’re very encouraged that we are going down the right path,” added Marcos.
On the sidelines of the summit, Marcos is expected to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, raise issues concerning overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East, and seek the Arab world’s assistance to the development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Marcos is flying to the Middle East while the region grapples with the Israel-Hamas war, triggered by the surprise attack of the Palestinian militant group on Israel. The President
The Saudi visit will be Marcos’ 9th foreign trip for 2023, and 15th since he became president. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com