US, Japan, South Korea, India envoys pay courtesy visit to Marcos

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2022 12:30 PM | Updated as of May 24 2022 01:09 AM

(Handout photo)
Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko meets incoming President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. at the BBM Headquarters in Boni. (Handout photo)

MANILA (UPDATE 3) - Presumptive president Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. received four diplomats in his headquarters on Monday, weeks ahead of his proclamation as the Philippines' 17th chief executive.

Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko, South Korean Ambassador Kim Inchul, Indian Ambassador Shambhu S. Kumaran and United States Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava were the envoys who went to Marcos Jr.'s office in Mandaluyong.

"This is not the first time I have met with them. This must be the second or third or fourth time already dahil noong kampaniya pa lang, marami nang pumupunta, nagtatanong ano ba talaga ang iniisip mo, binabalak mo," Marcos said in a press briefing after the 4 courtesy visits.

"This is just to further the discussion so that we get into actual, practical detail, hindi lang yung mga vague ideas of what can be done to dig down what can be done, what needs to be done para magsucceed itong mga program na ito," he said.

NO TALK OF CHINA BETWEEN INDIA, PH

Chinese incursions in parts of the South China Sea and along the Sino-Indian border were not brought up during Marcos' meeting with officials from India, Kumaran told reporters in a briefing.

"I conveyed a letter of congratulations from Prime Minister Narendra Modi from India on his resounding election victory," he said.

"The focus of the discussions today is about bilateral relationship and we did not have any discussions about the other aspects that you mentioned," he said, when asked if China-related issues were discussed.

China has been claiming parts of the West Philippine Sea and portions of land along its 3,440-km border with India.

In a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, Marcos said China and the Philippines "must not allow what conflicts or difficulties we have now between our two countries to become historically important."

Despite the non-mention of China during the meeting, Kumaran noted that India "would like to work with the Philippines towards capacity building and capability development of the Philippine Armed Forces."

"We do believe that under the modernization program of the AFP, there are potential areas where Indian companies can be competitive," he said.

"We work closely with the Armed Forces and the Department of National Defense to take forward this partnership in the new administration," he said.

Earlier this year, India and the Philippines signed a contract for Manila's acquisition of the BrahMos missile system, which involves the supply of an onshore anti-ship missile system to the Philippine Navy. 

Kumaran said he also briefed the incoming President "about the successes in digital governance in India" as he seeks for Marcos' "continued support for the development of the excellent bilateral relations between India and the Philippines."

"We've been having excellent progress over the past few years and we look forward to continuing the progress and the dynamism under the new administration," he said.

Marcos said he is also "very interested" in learning about India's microfinancing system that allows an individual to open a bank account for as low as P70.

"Marami silang maipapakita sa atin. Titingnan natin kung babagay sa Pilipinas. Baka maka-adopt tayo," he said.

ENVOYS FROM NORTHEAST ASIA, US

The ambassador from Japan and South Korea have declined to grant interviews with the media after their respective meetings with Marcos, saying they have to attend to other engagements.

"Japan would like to have an increase of employment of Filipinos in Japan," Marcos said.

South Korea, on the other hand, discussed about possible partnerships in digital communications and inspecting the viability of the Philippines' Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, he said.

"Binuhay namin muli ang diskusyon na 'yun. Although they have come before, we will now study their recommendation, their findings and we will see if we can still apply," he said.

The need to "redefine" the terms under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States was raised during the meeting with US Charge de Affaires Heather Variava.

The series of courtesy visits comes a week after several heads of state sent congratulatory messages to Marcos either through calls or official correspondence.

In an earlier phone call, US President Joe Biden told Marcos Jr. that the world's largest economy and military power hopes to "continue strengthening our alliance and expanding our cooperation on a broad range of issues."

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida earlier called Marcos to express his "wish for future close coordination" with the Philippines "for the realization of a 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific.'"

The South Korean President, on the other hand, wrote a letter to Marcos to urge the incoming Philippine president to “continue on its path of stability and prosperity.”