With anticipatory expectation

With anticipatory expectation

The United Nations General Assembly (Wikipedia photo courtesy)

We are on tenterhooks, only four days to the date President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. addresses the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 20, his third foreign trip since his inauguration on June 30 as the country’s 17th chief of state.

The UN General Assembly, according to diplomatic and political observers, will provide an opportunity for world leaders to offer solutions to pressing global issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 65-year-old President, who marked his milestone only last Tuesday, will fly out on Sunday – returning home on September 24 – in what many see as gearing up to win investments and economic benefits for this country of 114 million trying to wiggle out of a pandemic which hit it in mid-March of 2020.

The President, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, is set to tackle food security, climate change, and rule of law in his speech before the United Nations.

His predecessor, President Rodrigo Duterte, also addressed the United Nations twice – 2020 and 2021 – virtually vice pre-recorded videos.

Diplomatic observers see Mr. Marcos’ participation as important because it marks his first engagement with the UN, which the Philippines recognizes as the world’s most important multilateral organization.

At the same time, this year’s UN General Assembly is “significant” for world leaders as it will be the first one to be held completely in person since the pandemic started in 2020.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Kira Christianne Danganan-Azucena told a virtual press conference the President will deliver the Philippine national statement “at the high-level general debate.”

The theme of this year’s general debate is ‘A Watershed Moments: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges.’

Azucena said, “We can expect the President’s statement to identify these challenges and solutions to address them, the role of the United Nations and how the Philippines intends to contribute to these efforts and will also articulate his administration’s priorities which include climate change, the rule of law, and food security.”

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles herself said the President’s UNGA speech – expected to be attended by 152 heads of state and government — will focus on the Philippine government’s interventions, including international cooperation, to fast-track the country’s recovery from the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.

“In this case, the President’s primary objective and in fact, the main policy in his governance, in this administration, is economic recovery. And so, all activities, particularly even those presidential activities, are related to this particular vision,” Cruz-Angeles told a Malacanang press briefing.

“So, we are going to expect that his speech will be relating to how the Philippines will be recovering from this pandemic and where he intends to take this, and how he will do so in cooperation with other states,” she added.

Asked if Marcos has a scheduled meeting with other state leaders on the sidelines of the event, Cruz-Angeles said there are “no plans” yet although there were reports earlier that a meeting with President Joe Biden of the United States was being worked out.

“There’s no indication of a scheduled visit or meeting, other than what has already been announced,” Cruz-Angeles said. “We will be making a final announcement when we get to New York, as the occasion arises.”

Cruz-Angeles, however, raised the possibility that Mr. Marcos might meet with the members of the Filipino community in New York City — as he did with Filipino communities in Indonesia and Singapore earlier this month.

“The primary purpose will still be [his participation] in the [UN] General Assembly. That is the main purpose of the trip. There are no announcements or no calendared activities other than that and those congruent or collateral to this address, well of course, aside from what he usually does – meeting with the Filipino community when the opportunity arises,” she said.

The President’s US trip also aims to bring investments for the country’s economic recovery, according to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Jose Victor Gonzaga.

“Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and with much uncertainty and disruption around us, the President is not sparing any effort to address the economic challenges facing the country today,” said Gonzaga.

Gonzaga said Marcos is set to speak before an economic briefing that aims to harvest investments for the Philippines.

“As such, the other most important speech that the President will deliver in New York, aside from his UNGA address, will be at the Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB). The PEB is expected to attract institutional investors, senior corporate executives, business analysts, and even academic think tanks, and entrepreneurs,” said Gonzaga.

“This briefing will be an opportunity to outline the key economic priorities of his administration with a special focus on how we can hopefully expand and strengthen Philippine-US trade and investment relations during his term.”

Marcos is also expected to participate in roundtables with targeted sectors, some US companies, the US Chamber of Commerce, the US-ASEAN Business Council, and the US-Philippines Society.

“The President intends to meet with US companies that would be able to contribute to our efforts to achieve food security, energy security, and sustainable economic development, among others,” said Gonzaga.

Replying to questions if the South China Sea issue would be raised by the President during the US visit, Azucena said the draft statement includes the rule of law and the role of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

She said Marcos’ final speech would be vetted by the Office of the President.

“In the draft statement that we have prepared for the President, there is a very strong mention of the rule of law and the role of the UNCLOS but of course… the statements and speeches of the President are usually vetted by the Office of the President. Beyond that, I cannot offer further comment,” Azucena said.

On this his third trip overseas, the President deserves the prayers of his countrymen.

We wish him well.

(ai/mtvn)

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