In his first year in office, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has visited 10 countries to “reintroduce the Philippines” to the world as a business destination and to reinvigorate cooperation with neighboring states and allies.
In pursuit of an independent foreign policy, Marcos uses a “friend to all, enemy to none” strategy “with the end goal of mutually beneficial outcomes” for the Philippines and partner states. He assured Filipinos that such partnerships will not compromise even “one square inch of the [country’s] territory.”
However, Marcos admitted that the Philippines is walking a “very fine line” in balancing foreign relations. He said the Philippines must refrain from embracing the “cold war mentality” without having to choose between global powers such as the United States, Russia and China.
“I think we are determined as a group in ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and in the Indo-Pacific, those around the Indo-Pacific, despite all of these conflicts, we are determined to stay away from that,” Marcos said during his visit to Switzerland last January.
Departing from the Duterte administration’s stance, Marcos has ignited warmer relations with the U.S. through the conduct of the “largest ever” “Balikatan” military exercise with over 17,600 Filipinos and American soldiers participating last April. The U.S. said the Philippines is its largest recipient of U.S. military assistance, equipment and training in the Indo-Pacific region, amounting to over P57 billion since 2015.
Marcos visited the U.S. twice in seven months. His first official trip outside Southeast Asia brought him to New York City where he attended the 77th United Nations General Assembly in September 2022, followed by his bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington D.C. last May.
The Philippines remains in a territorial conflict with China despite a 2016 arbitral court’s decision that voided its nine-dash line claim over an area covering almost the entire South China Sea. Despite the tension, China remains the Philippines’ largest trading partner as of May 2023.
Among the latest incidents of Chinese incursions in the Philippine waters are the swarming of 48 Chinese fishing vessels in Iroquois Reef and the presence of three China Coast Guard ships and two People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels in Sabina Reef near the Recto Bank.
In April, China disapproved a joint statement by the U.S. and the Philippines calling for recognition of the arbitral win of the Philippines. It also raised concerns over the four additional sites under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) of the Philippines and the U.S. due to their close proximity to Taiwan.
Marcos argued that the four new EDCA locations would be used for humanitarian and relief operations during disasters in cooperation with U.S. troops. The four new sites are in the Naval Base Camilo Osias and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan, Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Isabela, and Balabac Island in Palawan.
Here’s how Marcos fared in his State of the Nation Address promise on foreign relations:
Find out how Marcos Jr. fared in other sectors
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Radio Television Malacañang, Microsites, accessed July 7, 2023
Inquirer.net, Palace confirms Bongbong Marcos’ ‘productive’ weekend trip to Singapore, Oct. 3, 2022
Rappler.com, ‘Insensitive, callous’: Marcos criticized over ‘luxurious’ Singapore Grand Prix trip, Oct. 3, 2022
CNN Philippines, Palace: Marcos’ trip to Singapore on F1 weekend ‘productive’, Oct. 3, 2022
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Presidential Communications Office, PBBM, Japan PM agree to enhance defense ties through reciprocal port calls, defense equipment transfer, Feb. 9, 2023
Presidential Communications Office, Australia announces maritime cooperation package for PH, increased ODA, May 19, 2023
Presidential Communications Office, PH, SoKor agree to elevate relations in bid to enhance security, infra cooperation, Nov. 12, 2022
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)