2023 July 20
SONA. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, 2022. Marcos is set to deliver his second SONA at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 24, 2023.
MANILA – A year into his office, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has pursued a balanced foreign policy that reflected his commitment to defending the country’s sovereignty while reaping the benefits from expanding and managing relations, be it with traditional or non-traditional partners.
In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos said he “will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power”.
He vowed to continue “to be a friend to all, an enemy to none”.
In a span of 10 months, Marcos has already engaged counterparts and sought to enhance bilateral cooperation during his trips to Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Belgium, China, Switzerland, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom.
In May, Marcos’ official visit to the US saw the establishment of the first bilateral defense guidelines between Manila and Washington DC— an important document that lays out ways for the two countries to modernize their alliance.
Since he assumed the presidency, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said bilateral relations have grown by leaps and bounds— evident in the increased defense and security cooperation between the two states.
“I don’t think it will be an exaggeration to say that our defense and security relations have grown by leaps and bounds since both President Marcos and President Biden took office,” Romualdez said in a forum on Thursday.
The biggest iteration of the Balikatan exercise was held in April, gathering over 17,000 Filipino and American troops as well as observers from partner states such as Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The US is also expected to allocate more than USD107 million or roughly PHP5 billion in infrastructure investments following the designation of four new locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement this year.
State Department Counsellor Derek Chollet this week also renewed Washington DC’s commitment to boosting economic relations with Manila.
“Our economic relationship is already quite strong…and so we have a high level delegation that will be coming here soon to talk further about ways we can deepen our economic relationship,” he told reporters.
“We feel very good about the relationship we have right now with President Marcos,” he added.
The series of high-level exchanges, including the Manila and Palawan trips of Vice President Kamala Harris in November 2022, had also sent a “strong signal” that both states are determined to nurture this alliance.
While doing so, Manila did not slack off in its interaction with China and has agreed to “further strengthen the China-Philippines relationship of Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation” as close neighbors and partners.
During his state visit to China in January, Marcos agreed to increase trade between the two countries to return to and even surpass the pre-pandemic bilateral trade volume.
Both Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to improve cooperation in agriculture, infrastructure, energy and people-to-people exchanges, and pursue additional avenues of cooperation in defense and security, science and technology, trade and investments.
In 2022, bilateral trade between the two states reached USD87.73 billion, making China the Philippines’ largest trading partner for seven consecutive years.
Following Marcos’ visit, Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian said Philippine fresh durians have entered the Chinese market and 20,000 tons of China-donated fertilizer has been sent to the Philippines and given out to local farmers.
While dealing with China on the economic front, the Marcos administration continues to make good on its promise to protect every square inch of Philippine territory amid an ongoing maritime row over the South China Sea.
The government this year adopted a policy to publicize maritime incidents in the West Philippine Sea and keep both the public and the international community abreast of Chinese incursions on Philippine waters.
It also installed buoys on different features in the West Philippine Sea not only to guide seafarers navigating the area but to mark the country’s territorial waters.
As of July 21, the Philippines has filed 99 diplomatic protests against China’s continuous activities within its exclusive economic zone.
In elaborating the country’s independent foreign policy, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Maria Theresa Lazaro said this approach is a “positive and necessary step forward for the country and the world.”
“It represents the Philippines’ commitment to standing up for its sovereignty and its rights, as well as pursuing its own interests in the global stage. We are hopeful that our independent foreign policy will continue to yield positive results for the Philippines and for the rest of the world in the years to come,” she said on the seventh anniversary of the 2016 arbitral ruling on the South China Sea.
Joyce Ann Rocamora (PNA)