Reclaiming our rightful place | Inquirer Opinion

Reclaiming our rightful place

/ 04:40 AM November 09, 2022

There is no denying that some international summits and conferences attended by heads of states are nothing more than talk shops that are a waste of time.


At best, many of these events are venues where the best of intentions are laid out with little getting done in their wake. At worst, they are outright junkets for the leaders of participating countries and their staff.

But there is no denying that, done properly, these fora can be excellent platforms for bringing to the fore the most pressing issues that smaller nations face so that larger, more powerful peers may help address them.


There is also no denying that, in the past few years, the country failed to capitalize on the potential benefits that multilateral summits offered, no thanks to the self-sabotaging words and actions of President Duterte who, in making himself a pariah among respected world leaders, dragged the Philippines to the same ignominious standing, as well.

One only has to look at the images of our former chief executive during de rigueur photo events where world leaders mingle and chat among themselves, some huddled in serious discussion or others laughing in casual conversation, while Duterte awkwardly stands to one side by his lonesome. It is a sad sight to behold, made even sadder by the nagging feeling that this image is actually an accurate visual representation of the country’s standing in the international community during the previous six years.

President Marcos Jr. now has a unique opportunity to change all this and restore the Philippines’ standing to where it rightfully belongs in the family of nations.

Over the next few days, Mr. Marcos will be representing this country’s 110 million citizens at the Asean Summit in Cambodia, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Thailand, and the Asean-European Union (EU) Summit in Belgium.

As leader of one of the founding members of Asean, our President should strive to rally the key members of the regional bloc to push back against China’s aggressive territorial moves in the South China Sea, notwithstanding the obstructionist moves of Chinese-aligned Cambodia in previous summits. And our President must show his commitment to human rights, whether at home or abroad, by encouraging his fellow heads of state to push for the end of political violence in Myanmar.

As a key member of Apec, Mr. Marcos should also take the initiative to strengthen the Philippines’ economic relations with the largest trading bloc in the world, giving special emphasis to food and energy security, the challenges of which have been felt acutely by Filipinos in recent months.

Finally, the upcoming Asean-EU Summit will be a good venue for the President to advocate for an estimated 50,000 Filipino seafarers whose livelihoods are being threatened by some rotten eggs in the local educational system.


EU nations, being some of the biggest employers of Filipino seafarers, should be engaged in dialogue by Mr. Marcos to see what should be done to protect the rights of arguably the best mariners in the world and, in doing so, protect a vital pillar of the Philippine economy.

But perhaps, most importantly, the President needs to be seen—as visibly as possible—as an honorable and dignified head of state that stands toe to toe with his peers in the international arena.

And, where possible, his voice—our voice as a nation—needs to be heard as audibly as possible advocating for the issues that are important for us as Filipinos and as global citizens.

Doing so will help restore pride to the country, some of whose citizens have, in recent years, been forced to almost apologetically and sheepishly explain to the rest of the world why we voted the way we did in 2016.

There is no denying that the Philippines’ international standing has been eroded in recent years not by the actions of its hardworking citizens employed in households and industries around the world, but by the foul-mouthed pronouncements of our former head of state.

And there is no denying the imperative that now falls on the shoulders of our current head of state to restore that standing in the eyes of the world—for the sake of better living and working conditions of at least 10 million Filipinos overseas and the national interest of the 100 million at home.

The Philippines has much to offer the rest of the world by way of products and the talent and industry of its people, just as it has much need for what the rest of the world has to offer. One of the best ways to maximize these mutual benefits is for our President to engage with as many of his peers—while actually acting like a peer—as much as possible, and not withdrawing awkwardly to one corner of the room hoping for the event to end soon.

For all Filipinos, Mr. Marcos must seize these opportunities. And he must not fail.

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