Philippines’ Marcos Jr. marks 1 year as leader leaning on historic ally US

By Federico Segarra

Manila, June 29 (EFE).- Philippines President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., celebrates one year in office Friday, a period marked by a shift in foreign policy towards the United States, after a turbulent six-year term with his historic partner in the region during the government of his predecessor.

To commemorate his first year in power, the president, son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, gave a speech Thursday at the Philippine Cultural Center in Manila in which he advocated continuing to work “intelligently” and “very conscientiously.”

Marcos Jr. has so far focused on reviving the economy hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and global inflation, and on his rapprochement with the US, dodging debates about abuses and corruption under his father’s dictatorial regime.

On June 30, 2022, Marcos Jr. was sworn in as President of the Philippines after sweeping the election with more than 60 percent of popular support, bringing the Marcos dynasty back to power 36 years after his father was deposed after a peaceful revolution in 1986.

“Friend of all and enemy of no one” was the slogan Marcos Jr. repeated after coming to power to prop up a supposed neutrality that sought not to align itself with either the US or China, after six years of controversial President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, who got closer to Beijing to the detriment of Washington.

A historical anomaly that Marcos Jr., who made an electoral tandem with Duterte’s daughter, current vice president Sara Duterte, took only a few weeks to correct despite experts predicting a policy continuation from his predecessor.

A month after Marcos became president, US State Secretary Anthony Blinken landed in Manila to express Washington’s explicit support for Manila in the face of the territorial challenge that China has been forcing for a decade in Philippine territorial waters in the South China Sea.

Beijing and Manila maintain a dispute over the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in the Spratly archipelago and Bajo de Masinloc, less than 200 nautical miles from the western Philippine coast, a limit the United Nations recognizes as the maritime border between states.

This dispute and the lack of investment he expected from Beijing caused Duterte to cool, according to experts, his relationship with China in his last years.

Marcos Jr., aware of the popular support the military and cultural alliance with the US arouses among the Philippine Army and citizens, oversaw the return of Philippine foreign policy toward its historical partner in the region. It marked the first state visit to Washington of a Philippine president in over a decade, where he was honorably received at the Pentagon in January.

Another great challenge Marcos Jr. has faced in his first year in office has been the global inflation caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which hit his country particularly hard. His energy and food dependence on foreign countries laminated the purchasing power of a vulnerable population that suffered one of the longest lockdowns in the world during the pandemic.

In a speech Thursday, Marcos Jr. said “there is still a lot of work to be done” in economic matters, and said that his government must “undo 30, 35, almost 40 years of neglect in regards to the agricultural sector.” EFE


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