Marcos may first visit Indonesia or SG, before possibly attending UNGA: envoy

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2022 09:28 PM

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks during the celebration of the 15th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) week held at the Marriot Hotel in Clark Pampanga on August 11, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. speaks during the celebration of the 15th Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) week held at the Marriot Hotel in Clark Pampanga on August 11, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may visit Indonesia or Singapore for his first overseas trip as the country's leader, in keeping with the tradition among Philippine presidents of choosing any Southeast Asian nation for their first foreign trips, a diplomat said Tuesday.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo that planned visit will precede Marcos' possible trip to the United States for his attendance at the United Nations' General Assembly (UNGA).

"Ang proposed visits niya, uunahin niya yung Indonesia sana. The President is looking at his schedule kung saan siya makakapunta but definitely it will before he goes to New York," Romualdez said.

Singapore is being considered because it also extended its invitation for Marcos to do a state visit.

"Yang dalawang bayan na 'yan is already on the table at pinaplano na lang ng DFA kung ano yung appropriate time for him to be able to visit these two ASEAN countries," said Romualdez, the timeline for which he did not say.

Meanwhile, Marcos' participation in the UNGA in New York in September is "more or less confirmed", according to the envoy who is the president's relative.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is already fixing Marcos' schedule, said Romualdez, based on his recent meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo. 

"Kinonfirm namin siya sa United Nations. Pero ngayon pa lang, we are actually fixing his schedule kasi maraming invitations si President Marcos to visit many countries," the ambassador said.

"Yung sinabi naman niya, yung UN importante sa atin 'yan. So I think more or less confirmed na yan," he added.

The UNGA is the main policy-making organ of the United Nations. The decisions it makes include appointing the secretary-general, electing the non-permanent members of the Security Council, and approving the UN budget, according to the UN website. 

The Assembly meets in regular sessions from September to December each year, it said. 

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said if ever Marcos decides to go to the event, it would be the first time he would meet with world leaders.

BILATERAL MEETING WITH BIDEN

Romualdez said he would meet with White House officials when he returns to Washington this weekend to possibly discuss Marcos' bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden, which may also be held at the sidelines of the UNGA.

"Siguro maganda din na magkaroon ng in-person usapan silang dalawa ni President Marcos, si President Biden. So we are looking at that as an option sa sidelines ng UNGA," he said.

Manalo earlier this month said they were only looking for the date that would work for both leaders. 

This was because Marcos expressed his desire not to be out of the country for too long due to more pressing issues domestically, said Manalo. 

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman earlier noted that Marcos can travel to the United States without being arrested over a $353-million contempt order against his family in connection with a human rights case.

"Any head of state has the privilege of diplomatic immunity. Lahat ng head of state. That's very clear in the world order, so to speak. You always give (that to) a head of state, unless of course he is a persona non grata that has created war crimes, and so forth and so on," said Romualdez.

"Itong mga legal issues surrounding President Marcos, lahat 'yan will have to be set aside because it's more important for the relationship that the head of state, who is a duly elected leader of a country, be given all the courtesies that a country can offer," he added.

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