Marcos gets grand welcome from Filipinos in Singapore

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is in Singapore after a three-day state visit to Indonesia. ST PHOTO: MARA CEPEDA
Mr Marcos said he owes much to his supporters in Singapore, where he won the Filipino migrant workers' vote in the May presidential elections. ST PHOTO: MARA CEPEDA

SINGAPORE - Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr was mobbed by his Filipino supporters on the first day of his two-day state visit to Singapore on Tuesday.

The Office of the President estimated close to 2,000 Filipinos were at the University Cultural Centre Ho Bee Auditorium at the National University of Singapore for a chance to see Mr Marcos in the flesh.

He is in Singapore after a three-day state visit to Indonesia.

The crowd cheered loudly as Mr Marcos entered the hall, the people scrambling to touch his hands and to take selfies with him.

One woman even shed tears when Mr Marcos finally took the stage.

"I am super excited. I can't even explain how I'm feeling. I wanted to cry since this morning," Ms Maribel Eades, 46, told reporters.

Mr Marcos said he owes much to his supporters in Singapore, where he won the Filipino migrant workers' vote in the May presidential elections.

He got 36,000 votes in Singapore, three times more than his closest rival, former vice-president Leni Robredo, data from Commission on Elections showed.

He received over 31 million votes overall, making Mr Marcos the first Filipino president to win by a majority vote since his dictator father, the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr, was deposed in 1986.

"You gave me more than 31 million votes. That's why I owe much to you all. In exchange, I promise to work on giving you jobs and improving the Philippines," he said.

About 81,000 of the over 215,000 Filipinos in Singapore are working as domestic helpers. There are also 99,000 are professionals and skilled workers here, said the Philippine Embassy.

Many Filipinos end up working overseas due to low salaries and lack of job security back home.

Mr Marcos acknowledged this in his speech, vowing to work hard so better opportunities would become more available in the Philippines.

One of the primary goals in his two-day state visit to Singapore is to bring in more job-generating investments to the Philippines.

Mr Marcos also vowed to give scholarships, healthcare benefits and housing programmes for the families that migrant Filipinos have left behind. However, he did not give specific plans.

Still, this gave hope to Ms Eades, who recalled stories of her domestic helper friends who would scrimp while working in Singapore just so they can send more money back home.

"It's really sad because sometimes they would be left with no money at all. So I hope our government would help their families and make them a priority," she said.

Ms Carolyn Miego, a domestic worker in Singapore for 16 years now, also hopes the Marcos government would do away with requiring them to submit an Overseas Employment Certificate due to its added costs.

This is a required exit clearance document for Filipinos who wish to work overseas.

"I left the Philippines because my salary was so low there. I'm only going to go back home when there are better sources of income. I hope the government would listen to our pleas," said Ms Miego.

Filipinas wave the Philippine flag and flash the “victory” sign, a symbol used by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr during the May election campaign. ST PHOTO: MARA CEPEDA

On Wednesday, Mr Marcos will be meeting separately with Singapore's President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss key regional and global issues. The Philippines and Singapore will also sign key agreements involving counter-terrorism and data privacy issues.

Singapore and the Philippines cooperate in wide-ranging areas such as trade and investment, defence and security, healthcare, education and culture.

Singapore is the Philippines' top trading partner in Asean.

Bilateral trade last year amounted to $23.2 billion, an increase of 17.2 per cent year on year.

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