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New leader Marcos Jr. wants to ‘reintroduce’ the Philippines
NEW YORK: Seeking to “reintroduce the Philippines” to the world, new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has ambitious plans for his nation on the international stage and at home — if, that is, the dual spectrum of the pandemic and climate change can be overcome or at least managed.
And if he can overcome the legacies of two people: his predecessor, and his father.
He also wants to strengthen ties with the United States and China – a delicate balancing act for the Southeast Asian nation – and, like many of his fellow leaders at the United Nations this week, called on the countries that have caused global warming to help less wealthy nations counteract its effects.
Marcos, who took office this spring, is already drawing both subtle and obvious distinctions between himself and his voluble predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who has alienated many international partners with his violent approach to the fight against drug trafficking and rhetoric. rude that he used to galvanize supporters.
When asked if Duterte had gone too far with his deadly drug crackdown, Marcos redirected the criticism to those who carried out the plan.
“His people sometimes went too far,” Marcos said on Friday. “We saw many instances where police officers, other officers, some were just shady characters that we weren’t quite sure where they were from and who they were working for. But now we went after them.
Marcos, 65, sat down for an extensive interview in New York on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly leaders meeting. Three months after taking office, he seemed energetic and enthusiastic – and eager to project his vision for the nation beyond its borders.
On Thursday, he met with US President Joe Biden in a bid to strengthen the sometimes complicated ties that have fluctuated between the two nations since the Philippines spent four decades as an American colony in the early 20th century.
“There were bits where maybe they weren’t ideal,” Marcos said. “But ultimately, that overall trajectory has been to strengthen and strengthen and strengthen our relationship.”
In addition to Duterte, Marcos must also draw distinctions between himself and the most iconic figure in the Philippines’ public sphere: his late father, whose surname he shares. Ferdinand Marcos Sr., a hero to some and a plundering dictator to others, ruled from the 1960s through the 1980s, including a tumultuous period of martial law and repression. He made the family’s reputation an indelible part of Philippine history.
Directly attacking the family legacy is something the son has been loath to do, at least explicitly, though he vehemently rejects the use of the term “dictator” to describe his father’s regime. For him, the political baggage of his parents is a vestige of the past.
“I didn’t engage in any of this political back and forth regarding the Marcos family,” he said. “All I talked about was, ‘What are we going to do to get to a better place?’ And people responded.
Committing, he said, would simply have been a retread — and unnecessary. “It doesn’t help. It doesn’t change anything,” he said. ” So, what is it for ? »
Regarding his predecessor, Marcos also follows a nuanced political line. Standing out from Duterte’s rule in your face can benefit him at home and abroad, but Duterte’s popularity has helped propel him to power, and the former president’s daughter, Sara, is the vice-president of Marcos.
The extrajudicial executions associated with Duterte’s years-long crackdown have prompted calls for his administration to be investigated from the outside, and he has vowed not to join the International Criminal Court – a precept with which Marcos agrees. After all, Marcos asked, why should a country with a functioning legal system be judged from elsewhere?
“We have a judicial system. It’s not perfect,” he said. “I don’t understand why we need an outside arbiter to tell us how to investigate, who to investigate, how to go about it.”
Marcos launched the coronavirus pandemic like many other leaders have – as a balancing act between keeping people safe and ensuring life can move on.
“We took a very extreme stance in the Philippines, and eventually we had the longest lockdown of any country in the world,” he said. “It was the choice of the previous government. And now, we’re coming out of it now.
In recent days, he has both removed a national mandate to wear masks outdoors and extended a “state of calamity” – which he said he did not necessarily want to do, but the maintenance of the statement in place allows more people to continue to get help.
“It’s not very encouraging when people look at your country and they see, ‘Well, it’s in a state of calamity.’ It’s not good for tourists. It’s not good for visitors. It’s not good for business,” Marcos said.
Fostering ties with China, especially given Beijing’s aggressive maritime policies, could be a daunting prospect for a nation so closely and historically aligned with the United States. But, says Marcos, it is possible – and necessary.
“It’s a very fine line that we have to walk in the Philippines,” the president said. “We don’t subscribe to the old Cold War ‘spheres of influence’. … So it’s really driven by the national interest, number one. And second, peacekeeping.
Peace comes in many flavors. Last week, Marcos traveled to the southern part of the country – a predominantly Muslim region of a predominantly Catholic country – to express his support for a multi-year effort to help a former rebel group, the Islamic Liberation Front. Moro, to lay down their arms and govern their autonomous region effectively.
As Moro entered the fold of government, smaller militant groups, including the violent Abu Sayyaf, continued to fight the government and carry out sporadic attacks, especially in poor rural areas where law enforcement is weak. weak. Marcos dismissed Abu Sayyaf as a group that no longer has any cause other than “banditry”.
“I don’t believe they are a movement anymore. They are not fighting for anything,” Marcos said. “They are just criminals.”
Marcos did not specify specifically why the Philippines needed to be reintroduced, although the country’s image took a hit from 2016 to 2022 under the Duterte administration.
“The purpose, really, that I brought to this visit here in New York … was to try to reintroduce the Philippines to our American friends, both in the private sector and in the public sector,” he said. -he declares.
And after the pandemic is actually over, he said, the nation must find a fruitful path and follow it.
“We have to position ourselves. We have to be smart about forecasting, be a bit prescient,” he said.
“We don’t want to go back to what we were doing before the pandemic,” Marcos said. “We want to be able to be involved and be a vital part of the new world economy, the new world political situation.”