By Darryl John Esguerra

BACK-TO-BACK VISIT. After concluding his two-day state visit to Brunei Darussalam, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. heads to Singapore on Wednesday (May 29, 2024) to deliver the keynote address at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue and strengthen 55 years of cooperation between the Philippines and Singapore. While in Brunei, the President secured key agreements on maritime cooperation, tourism, seafaring, and agriculture. (Presidential Communications Office Photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. arrived in Singapore on Wednesday afternoon where he is expected to grace the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue.

Marcos arrived in Singapore at 4:52 p.m., according to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO). 

The President is coming off a two-day state visit in Brunei Darussalam where he sealed agreements on various areas such as maritime cooperation, tourism, seafaring, and agriculture, and met with the Sultanate’s business leaders.

In an interview in Brunei, Marcos said his keynote address to the Shangri-La Dialogue, touted as Asia’s premier defense and security gathering, will articulate the Philippines’ position on defense and diplomacy, and its commitment to a rules-based order and constructive multilateralism amid geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.    

Marcos will be the first Filipino president to address the forum, which is set on Friday evening.

“The fact that they asked the Philippine President to come and speak on that very subject is significant in the sense that it is a recognition that there are challenges that are facing the Philippines, specifically,” Marcos said as quoted in a PCO news release.

“And not only the Philippines, but this affects the region and it affects the world. So, what I will present in the Shangri-la forum [the] day after tomorrow is going to essentially try to explain the position of the Philippines for both legally and geopolitically and diplomatically, and how we see the ways forward for the Philippines and for the region,” he added.

The President explained that the West Philippine Sea, part of the vast South China Sea that is being claimed by China, is so important to global economy and its stakeholders are no longer limited to Southeast Asia, Asia, and Indo-Pacific.

This makes the Philippines’ position so important in the decision-making of many of the policymakers around the world, Marcos said. 

Among those expected to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue are multiple stakeholders in defense, ranging from heads of governments, heads of states, and defense of ministers to industry players from around 40 countries, including China.

Other world leaders who have delivered keynote addresses were Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in 2023; Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-O-Cha in 2016; Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak in 2011; Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-Bak in 2010; and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2009. 

Aside from addressing the defense forum, Marcos will also have a series of high-level meetings with Singaporean officials for his two-day working visit.

The President’s visit to Singapore is upon the invitation of former Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Singapore span for 55 years after the two nations formally established ties on May 16, 1969.

DND chief to engage in high-level discussions

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., meanwhile, would engage in high-level plenary sessions with his counterparts at the event.

“Secretary Teodoro, together with the delegation from the DND, is set to attend high-level plenary sessions of the SLD, which focuses on key defense and diplomacy issues in the region, as well as meet with defense ministers from participating countries. Other key DND officials are also slated to engage their counterparts to expound on key defense programs and projects,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Thursday.

Teodoro is part of the President’s delegation to Singapore.

The SLD is an annual summit organized by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) in the city-state.

It serves as a venue for defense and military leaders, diplomats, and security experts and practitioners worldwide to gather and engage in discourse on the most pressing regional security issues.

“The DND regularly sends a delegation to the SLD, to share the Philippines’ perspective on select topics and maximize the opportunity to interact with other attending officials from partner countries and international organizations,” Andolong said. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)