MANILA, Philippines — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will make his international debut at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) this week, where he is expected to address the world’s most important diplomatic gathering on Wednesday, September 21 (Manila Time).
Marcos, best known abroad as the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, is the first Filipino leader to physically attend the summit in eight years. The President traveled to New York specifically for the meeting, where he is expected to meet with world leaders, including US President Joe Biden.
His trip to the United States is also his first publicly known trip to the country in decades. The President’s trip, which was also attended by members of his family, has drawn attention due to an existing contempt judgment handed down by a US court against him and his mother in a human rights class action lawsuit filed against his father.
As head of state, Marcos will be granted diplomatic immunity, allowing him to enter the US without threat of arrest in connection with the decades-old case.
Before leaving the Philippines last Sunday, Marcos said he would address “economic recovery, food security and agricultural productivity” in his speech to the UNGA. Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA) said the president’s address will also touch on climate change, the rule of law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Marcos is currently scheduled to be the 18th speaker on the first day of the high-level general debate, which will last until September 26th. About 152 other leaders are expected to address the UNGA, including Biden, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Emmanuel Macron of France.
The upcoming summit – the first to be held physically in over two years – comes in the shadow of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, food shortages and the mounting environmental crisis.
“The General Assembly meets at a time of great peril,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said recently. The assembly, he added, should provide a platform for debate, dialogue and proposed solutions to deal with current crises.
In a recent press conference, the DFA underscored the importance of Marco’s participation in the high-profile gathering. “It marks his first engagement with the United Nations, which recognizes the Philippines as the world’s premier multilateral organization,” said FDFA Deputy Secretary Kira Chirstianne Azucena.
Marcos is also expected to meet other world leaders on the sidelines of the summit, although details of who the President will meet with have yet to be announced.
Duterte, Marcos Legacy
Less than a month after a landslide victory in the Philippine election, the Marcos camp said the new president was considering attending the UN summit, which has been described as a “historic opportunity” for the Philippine leader to share his new vision for the country.
“It would be very important to attend the General Assembly and represent the Philippines there and meet with other world leaders,” Marcos said in early June.
While Marcos faces the challenge of coming to terms with his family’s notorious history, he’s also starting after the tenure of former President Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody drug war has drawn grave concern and criticism from UN experts and the international community.
In particular, the 77th UNGV also takes place against the background of a joint human rights program that began under Duterte and will be continued under Marcos. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Program is the operational project of a 2020 Human Rights Council resolution to provide the Philippines with technical cooperation to resolve human rights issues, including the killings in Duterte’s drug war.
At a meeting with UN representative to the Philippines Gustavo González in June, Marcos “also mentioned the importance of ensuring high accountability in relation to human rights,” according to the UN official.
Expectations are also high for the new president and whether he would elevate the Philippines’ legal victory over China in the western Philippine Sea. Duterte raised the 2016 Hague ruling in a video address during the 2020 assembly, a historic move later endorsed by countries including the US, Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Denmark and the European Union. – Rappler.com