'Marcos participation in UN General Assembly shows admin push for multilateralism'

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2022 02:30 PM

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MANILA – President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.'s participation in the United Nations General Assembly this week signifies how much his administration values multilateralism, a political analyst said Monday.

University of the Philippines (UP) Assistant Professor for International Relations Enrico Gloria said Marcos seems to be consistent with his pronouncement about tapping the multilateral approach for his administration's foreign policy.

“If we recall his first State of the Nation Address, for instance, he reaffirmed there the commitment of the Philippines to maintain and sustain multilateral consultations and dialogues,” said Gloria. 

“And likewise, it also makes sense if we consider for instance the appointment of the first ever career diplomat as Secretary of the Foreign Affairs,” he added. 

“Multilateral diplomacy, it seems, is becoming more of the major thrust of this administration’s foreign policy agenda. And I think this is important if we consider the context of where we have appreciated Philippine foreign policy for the past 6 years. It has always been interpreted within that major power rivalry between the United States and China,” Gloria said.

Marcos' predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, pivoted to China and Russia amid his issues with the United States, the country's longtime ally. Aside from strengthening Manila's relations with Beijing and Moscow through some agreements, the former president also paid visits to the two countries, something he did not do to the US throughout his term.

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On Sunday, Marcos left for the US to attend the UNGA, where he is set to speak Tuesday afternoon (New York time). It is his first trip to the US since assuming the presidency in June and after several years amid a contempt order against him and his family over a human rights case filed by Martial Law victims.

Gloria said Manila’s 2016 arbitral victory against Beijing on the West Philippine Sea is an issue that Marcos should frame as a multilateral one.

“If we look at it, yung 2016 arbitral award, yes it is between the Philippines and China, and it is a story of how the Philippines triumphed over China in terms of the legal basis of our territorial claims.”

“But beyond these bilateral dynamics, the 2016 arbitral award and our claim in West Philippine Sea is really about the rule of law and protecting territorial sovereignty. These 2 issues are not really bilateral in its very nature but really a, it concerns everyone. It’s the foundation of the current international order,” he said.

“I think it would be sort of a disservice to, for instance, the legacy of the Duterte administration for bringing it up in the UN General Assembly back in 2020 not to continue with that momentum as far as this new president is concerned,” Gloria added.

China has been consistent in its position to deal with its maritime disputes in the South China Sea bilaterally.

At last week's pre-departure press briefing on Marcos' working visit to the US, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it has included in the draft statement it prepared for the president "a very strong question on the rule of law and the role of UNCLOS".

But it noted that the president's speech will still have to be finalized by his office.

--ANC, 19 September 2022