Ferdinand Marcos Jr., President of the Philippines has delivered his second state of the nation address.
In his address made on Monday, July 24, 2023 at the House of Representatives in Quezon City, Marcos emphasized his administration’s resolve to defend the country’s territory through diplomacy.
In spite of series of problems and uncertainties occasioned partly by the war in Ukraine, Marcos averred that the dedication and patriotism he had seen among Filipino workers in and out of government have kept him optimistic.
“With this in my heart, I know that the state of the nation is sound, and is improving,” Marcos said to applause from lawmakers and top government officials present.
Also, Marcos recounted reforms established by his administration to boost the economy following the coronavirus pandemic. He made mention of last year’s 7.6% economic growth rate, which he said was the country’s highest in 46 years despite weak prospects worldwide.
In a clear allusion to his country’s long-simmering territorial disputes with China, Marcos said, “Our journey to progress requires not only unity and social cohesion amongst our people.”
“It is also imperative that our nation remains intact and inviolable,” he iterated.
“We will protect our sovereign rights and preserve our territorial integrity, in defense of a rules-based international order. With our national interest paramount, we will always pursue constant dialogue and diplomatic approaches to the resolution of any issue that may arise.”President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.,
In February, Marcos approved an expansion of the U.S. military presence in the Philippines to add four new bases to five existing sites under a 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the longtime treaty allies.
China warned the move “will drag the Philippines into the abyss of geopolitical strife and damage its economic development at the end of the day.” But Philippine officials said the move was not aimed at China.
Marcos’s moves to reaffirm ties with Washington was a key turnaround from the often-hostile approach his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte took toward the United States.
Marcos To Grant Amnesty To Rebels
As part of government efforts to deal with decades-long insurgencies, Marcos said without giving further details that he would grant amnesty to rebels who have decided to return to normal life.
That may apply to armed fighters of the largest Muslim rebel group in the country’s south, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a 2014 autonomy deal with the government.
An unspecified number of rebels in the group still have not been amnestied.
Furthermore, Marcos pledged to crack down on smuggling and hoarding, which he blamed for soaring food prices.
“We will not allow this. The days of those smugglers and hoarders are numbered,” he said to applause.
However, critics, slammed the Philippine President for not mentioning human rights issues in his speech, including his refusal to cooperate with the International Criminal Court in its investigation of large numbers of killings under Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs.
Meanwhile, Marcos is slated to leave for Malaysia on Tuesday, July 25, 2023 for a three-day visit. Since assuming the presidency, Marcos has taken more than a dozen foreign trips, including to the United States and China, to seek investments and boost trade.
The government stated that the foreign trips are crucial to back up economic reforms and initiatives, including a bill that Marcos signed into law last week creating the country’s first sovereign wealth fund, which aims to pool money for infrastructure and other projects.