Moderating foreign travels | Inquirer Opinion

Eight foreign visits on official business, plus a personal trip to an international sporting event known to attract the rich and famous more than anyone else.

This is the travel record held by President Marcos Jr. lifted in his first seven months in office – a record unprecedented in recent years, much less for a president leading the country through what is still a crisis situation caused by the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since his oath of office last June 30, 2022, the Chief Executive has been to Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, Cambodia, Thailand, Belgium, China, and Switzerland for a combination of state and official visits, and participation in international conferences. .

He was accompanied on these trips by the usual members of his official family, as well as representatives of the private sector – such as the seven billionaires who joined him in Davos – to promote the country as an attractive site for foreign investment.

With this juxtaposition, it is easy to criticize the Chief Executive for what on the surface looks like a waste of time and resources, when there are continuous domestic challenges that need to be addressed, such as the stubbornly high rate of inflation that moves from one basic commodity to another and made life more difficult for most citizens.

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According to the official count of the palace, the President introduced investment pledges worth over P50 billion from these various trips, while concluding bilateral economic deals with other nations on at least three of these trips. That is not something to scoff at, especially if even just a portion of these commitments materialize over the medium to long term, resulting in the creation of more jobs for Filipinos.

But there is something to be said about the need for more balance in the president’s priorities when it comes to governing this nation of 110 million people, all of whom are pulling the government in one direction or another to address their priorities.

Let’s start with the two biggest crises the country is currently facing – the ongoing pandemic and the inflationary crisis. Both can be better handled if there are permanent heads of cabinet and departments appointed to address these challenges.

For some unclear reason, however, the president has yet to appoint a permanent secretary of health, leaving an officer in charge of running the day-to-day affairs of this important office, while calling himself the interim secretary of agriculture.

And while the COVID-19 cases are on the way, the damage it has caused in agriculture continues to be felt, especially by consumers who struggle every day with record high prices, first of sugar, then of onions, and now of eggs .

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Additionally, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of day-to-day issues that a president can only effectively address from behind a desk, paying attention to staff briefings and carefully reading documents before signing them, rather than delegating too many of these tasks. to subordinates. There is also merit in calls for cutting the president’s delegation to the bare minimum, as the 70-person delegation to the World Economic Forum in the alpine resort town of Davos, Switzerland, was said to far exceed the size of delegations from wealthy nations. to have. .

On the plus side of the president’s trips, it is true that one of the best ways to reintroduce the new face of the country to the rest of the world is by meeting the heads of foreign governments face to face and the hands of potential business partners. and foreign capitals. This is made even more important by the fact that the country’s image overseas suffered during the six years of the previous administration, no thanks to the frequent foul-mouthed statements of our then head of state, not to mention the massive body count that left behind his bloody antidrug war.

Just as many Filipinos felt the refreshing change with a president who speaks in complete sentences without the need for constant kisses and the occasional risqué joke, all of which have no place in presidential speech, so people abroad need the same clean slate to experience

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And such important changes must be seen with their own eyes, heard in real time with their ears, and their hands shaken in the flesh, to determine if the country is really back on the right track, especially with a foreign leader. an alliance of interests is contemplated or a businessman plans to commit billions of dollars of resources.

So, Mr. President, by all means, travel. Promotion of the Philippines abroad as a profitable investment destination. Look out for the interest and welfare of the millions of Filipinos living abroad. Offers the beaches of the country as a relaxing tourism place.

But remember to pay close attention to local concerns and address the pressing challenges that our ordinary citizens face on a daily basis. Deal?

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