As a “jet-setter” president, Marcos Jr. has also been accompanied by First Lady Liza Marcos and cabinet officials. His frequent travels received backlash, especially since travel expenses are funded by the taxpayers.
These trips differ in three kinds of visit. As explained by the Official Gazette, a state visit is by invitation of a host foreign head of state. Arrival ceremonies include rendering full military honors, playing the national anthems of the two nations, and holding a bilateral meeting followed by a conference. The visiting head can have eight to ten official delegates who will accompany him during the trip. All of the trip expenses are shouldered by the host country.
Meanwhile, on an official visit, anyone from a high rank from Cabinet-level to head of government can be invited for a visit by the host country’s government, which will also shoulder the costs of the visit. The visiting official can bring up to six personnel as official delegates. is invited to visit another country by its government
On a working visit, an official goes to another country to discuss issues that concern both of them. Unlike official and state visits, this does not necessarily need an invitation and the host country will not shoulder the expenses of the visit.
Before we hear his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, let’s take a look at his travel history as the head of the state.
Two months since he assumed office, Marcos Jr. went to Indonesia for a state visit from September 4 to 6 and met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo for a bilateral meeting. The two have signed a joint plan of action for the two countries in the next five years, including the renewal of agreements about defense and culture.
The first visit was accompanied by first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, his son Ilocos Norte rep. Sandro Marcos, and first cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez. He was also joined by his economic team comprising Finance Chief Benjamin Diokno, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Secretary of Budget and Management Amenah Pangandaman, Secretary of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Arsenio Balisacan, and Bangko Sentral of the Philippines (BSP) Governor Felipe Medalla.
He went back to Indonesia for a three-day visit in May this year to attend the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.
After his trip to Indonesia. Marcos Jr. and his team went to Singapore on September 6 to 7 for a state visit and met with Singapore President Halimah Yacob. The bilateral meeting tackled counterterrorism, water collaboration, and data privacy, among others.
In less than a month, he returned for a “partly official, partly personal” trip in October. Executive secretary Lucas Bersamin said that Marcos Jr. was invited by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the Formula One Grand Prix or F1. The president faced backlash for it as it was unannounced and was done during the aftermath of Super Typhoon Karding in the country.
In September 2022, Marcos Jr. went to New York, USA for a working visit to attend the 77th United Nations General Assembly. During the trip, he met with US President Joe Biden, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and World Bank President David Malpass. This trip also marked his first visit in years amid his contempt order about the human rights class suit.
In his UNGA speech, he highlighted his plans for the Philippines, including tackling economic recovery and food security. He also attended an Eric Clapton concert at Madison Square Garden during the trip.
He went back on April 30 to May 4 for an official visit and had a bilateral talk with US President Joe Biden and other Cabinet officials at the White House to “reaffirm the special relationship” between the two countries. They covered issues on defense and security, the economy, and impunity in the Philippines' war on drugs, among others.
Marcos Jr. flew to Cambodia to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 40th and 41st summits where he tackled the “post-pandemic economic recovery and transformation,” he also talked about maritime security, calling for cooperation in the fight “against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing” and eliminating marine pollution.
He also held bilateral meetings with Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
He was accompanied by Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Erwin Tulfo, and Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia Maria Amelita Aquino.
Filipino businessmen also joined him on the trip. They were ASEAN-BAC chairman Joey Concepcion, member George Barcelon, Felta Multi-Media Inc. CEO Mylene Abiva, Home Healthlink Innovations, Inc. CEO Shiela Marie Acosta, Esquire Financing CEO Rajan Uttamchandani, and CEO and President of Philippine Blue Cross Biotech Corporation Benito Techico.
A few days after, Marcos Jr. had a three-day trip to Bangkok, Thailand to attend Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Week from November 16 to 19, 2022.
He tackled his plans and priorities for the Philippines, such as in terms of trade, food security, climate change, and post-pandemic economic recovery.
He also had bilateral meetings with other country leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, and French President Emmanuel Macron.
He brought with him 10 Philippine officials, including House Senior Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Presidential Adviser on Creative Communications Paul Soriano, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo, and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Erwin Tulfo, and Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo with his wife and actress Dawn Zulueta, among others.
In December 2022, the president went on a three-day trip to Brussels, Belgium to attend the ASEAN-European Union Summit.
He asserted his stance and concerns on issues about food security, climate change, Filipino seafarer welfare, connectivity, and trade which generated an estimated investment of P9.8 billion pledges.
“I am also pleased to announce that European business confidence in the Philippines is high as evidenced by the expansion plans of European companies that we met in the sectors of fast-moving consumer goods, shipbuilding, renewable energy, and green metals,” Marcos said during his arrival speech.
The president also got the chance to have a bilateral meeting with leaders from the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain, and Estonia.
For his first trip in 2023, Marcos Jr. had a three-day state visit to China in January.
During the trip, Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed 14 bilateral agreements in areas of agriculture, trade and investment, infrastructure, development, maritime security cooperation, tourism, and renewable energy, among others.
In the same month, Marcos Jr. flew to Davos, Switzerland for a five-day trip to attend the World Economic Forum. He was the only Southeast Asian leader present at the conference.
He highlighted his plans for the country in areas of “trade and investment, monetary and fiscal policies, food and energy security, climate action, structural reforms, digitalization, public-private partnerships, health and nutrition, education, and other social services.”
Marcos Jr. Also took the opportunity to consult with other leaders about his plans for the Sovereign Wealth Fund or Maharlika fund—which has been signed into law on July 18, 2023.
This trip also drew flak since Marcos Jr. was accompanied by at least 70 delegates—composed of business leaders and government politicians—raising eyebrows about the expenses spent. However, Marcos Jr. defended that half of the delegates paid for the trip.
Marcos Jr. had a five-day official trip in Japan at an invitation by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held from February 8 to 12.
During his visit, he sealed agreements in areas of infrastructure, ICT, agriculture, and more. He was also able to have $13 billion (over P700 billion) in investment pledges that will help generate about 24,000 jobs. He also said that Japan will provide infrastructure loans for two major railroad projects amounting to JPY 377 billion (over P100 billion).
According to Malacañang, a group of “equally diverse” 114 businessmen also joined the trip.
On May 6, Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Marcos attended the historical coronation of King Charles III and The Queen Consort Camilla at Westminster Abbey. They also attended the reception before the formal coronation at Buckingham Palace.
He also toured the London Gatwick Airport with Speaker Martin Romualdez and other Philippine delegates and had a meeting with Global Infrastructure Partners to discuss matters on best practices in operating airports to apply in the Philippines.
"We had a productive meeting with Global Infrastructure Partners, the company behind Gatwick Airport's exceptional infrastructure, technology, and operations, and were given a tour to explore some of their best practices firsthand,” he wrote tweeted.
Delegates, expenses during the trips
The official list of delegates who accompanied the president on every travel has not been disclosed yet, but he is often joined on trips by his wife, Liza; his cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez; Deputy Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo with his wife, actress Dawn Zulueta; Presidential Adviser on Creative Communications Paul Soriano, and Senator Mark Villar.
He is also accompanied by the cabinet and his economic team including Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual and Information and Communications Technology Ivan Uy Finance Chief Benjamin Diokno, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Secretary of Budget and Management Amenah Pangandaman, Secretary of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Arsenio Balisacan, and Bangko Sentral of the Philippines (BSP) Governor Felipe Medalla.
While his travel expenses are always scrutinized by the public, the president would defend the cost of the trips, saying that the pledges signed—which are yet to be materialized—are what matters the most.
“So in terms of the cost, you know, the way I see it, you have to look at it as ROI. Do we bring something back or do we not?” Marcos Jr. said in an interview with select media in Malacañang Palace in January.
“If you say, I don’t know, as I said I don’t know the exact figures of the cost and everything. But for example, we came back from China with pledges of 22 billion. Let’s say we get actual out of that one billion, bawing-bawi lahat ng eight trips. Finished. That’s the idea,” he added.
Signed and materialized pledges
As of February 2023, the president reported that his trips abroad have garnered a total of 116 projects worth US$62.926 billion or P3.48 trillion in investments which are projected to boost the country’s economy.
For a quick rundown, these are all signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) that have generated the following investment commitments:
- Indonesia US$8.48 billion;
- Singapore US$6.54 billion;
- United States US$3.847 billion;
- Thailand US$4.62 billion;
- Belgium US$2.20 billion;
- China US$24.239 billion; and
- Japan US$13 billion
So far, a total of US$4.349 billion or P239 billion have materialized and are currently in the works for their projects in the country.
“Meanwhile, projects worth US$29.712B or P1.7 trillion have existing Memorandum of Understanding or Letters of Intent while confirmed projects worth US$28.863 or P1.5 trillion are in the planning stage,” as reported by Philippine Information Agency (PIA).