In the small hours of Wednesday morning, Manila time, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will address the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the first from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations – with hell-bent ears from Asia and elsewhere.
The 65-year-old President Marcos, on his third trip overseas – he was previously in Indonesia and Singapore – since his inaugural on June 30, is expected to tackle climate change, the rule of law, and food security during the high-level general debate themed “a watershed moment, transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.
World leaders from 150 nations will also have a chance to listen to the man, the son of the president whose name he carries who addressed the UN General Assembly a day short to the day he himself addressed in person the world body on September 21, 1966, discuss his administration’s priorities.
Expectations are high that Mr. Marcos will identify the challenges confronting this country of 114 million people and the solutions to address them, the role of the United Nations – as stressed 56 years ago as well before the assembly by his then 49-year-old father – and how the this multi-ethnic and multilingual country intends to contribute to these efforts.
In like manner, the President has confirmed he will meet with UN Secretary General António Guterres and leaders of long-standing and important partners of the Philippines and discuss with them opportunities for stronger cooperation in food security, agriculture, renewable energy, and climate change which are among the key priorities of his administration.
His schedule includes meeting with the Filipino community at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. New York alone has nearly 145,000 in New York, not to mention those attending the meeting from Florida, New Jersey and Virginia.
This year’s UN General Assembly is significant as it is the first one to be held completely in person since the worldwide pandemic began in March 2020.
President Rodrigo Duterte twice addressed the UN General Assembly – in 2020 and 2021 virtually – in pre-recorded videos, and in 2010 President Benigno Aquino III also addressed the assembly in person, a decade before the pandemic.
The other ASEAN leader to deliver his country’s statement at the General debate this year is Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan of Singapore.
Asia’s ears will also be on the President if he would discuss in his speech the country’s assertion on the West Philippine Sea and uphold a 2016 decision by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that favored Manila’s diplomatic protest against Beijing’s sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
But diplomatic officials say there is a “very strong diction” on the rule of law and the rule of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS in what the President may say.
Another expected gleam in the President’s US trip is the official intent to bring in investments for the country’s economic recovery, with the country, given its more robust domestic activities, poised to grow 5.7 percent in 2022 and 5.6 percent on average in 2023-24 amid intensifying global uncertainties.
This means the President will also speak before an economic briefing that aims to bring in investments for the Philippines – at the Philippine Economic Briefing which is expected to attract institutional investors, senior corporate executives, business analysts, and even academics, think tanks, and entrepreneurs.