President Marcos urges Asean to lead for peace in first overseas trip

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (second from left) made a joint statement with his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA - Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Monday called on Asean to lead the way in bringing peace to the region amid the "volatile time in geopolitics", during his first overseas trip since taking office in June.

In a joint statement after a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo in Bogor outside Jakarta, Mr Marcos Jr said: "We... spoke at length about the role that we believe Asean should play while we face difficulties in this very volatile time in geopolitics, not only in our region but also in the rest of the world."

"We agreed that Asean is going to be the lead agent in the changes that we would like to see in continuing to bring peace to our countries," he added.

Indonesia and the Philippines are among the founding members of Asean. Indonesia is set to take over from Cambodia as the rotating chair of the regional bloc next year.

Thanking the Philippines for its commitment to support Indonesia's chairmanship, Mr Widodo underscored the importance of strengthening Asean's centrality and unity.

"Indonesia wants to ensure that Asean continues to be the locomotive of stability, peace and prosperity in the region. Asean must be able to overcome various challenges ahead,' he added.

At the invitation of the Indonesian leader, Mr Marcos Jr arrived in Jakarta on Sunday with his wife, Mrs Louise Araneta-Marcos, and several officials. He is slated to meet local businesses to promote trade and investment, among other activities. He is scheduled to visit Singapore on Sept 6.

Mr Marcos Jr won a landslide victory in the election in May and was sworn in as the 17th president of the Philippines on June 30. This marked his family's epic return to power after his father, former president Ferdinand Marcos, was overthrown in a popular uprising in 1986, fled the country and died in exile in the United States.

At the Bogor Presidential Palace on Monday, Mr Marcos Jr was given a 21-gun salute and hosted to a state banquet.

He said he chose Indonesia as his first destination because the two neighbours are close geographically as well as in culture and ethnicity.

"It is going to be the strong partnerships that we will make as we slowly come out of the pandemic economy. It is what that will lead us to success."

Mr Widodo voiced confidence that the relationship between the two countries will only become closer.

The two presidents discussed deepening bilateral cooperation in various sectors, including trade, infrastructure and strategic industries, border security, as well as defence and maritime security.

Mr Widodo called for more Indonesian exports of food and beverage - including coconut and seaweed products - and pharmaceuticals to the Philippines.

He also noted that several Indonesian state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have participated in development programmes in the Philippines.

"I want more opportunities for Indonesian SOEs and private companies to support development in the Philippines," he said.

Memorandums of understanding were also inked in the areas of cultural cooperation, defence and security, and creative economy.

Mr Marcos Jr said the Philippines considers Indonesia "not only a neighbour, not only a friend, but kin".

The partnership with Indonesia, he stressed, as well as with "all our partners and allies and friends around the world will be of critical importance so that we remain stable as we grow out of the pandemic economy".

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