MANILA (AP) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr has been reaffirming ties with the United States (US) in a key turnaround from the often-hostile demeanor his predecessor displayed toward Manila’s treaty ally.
Marcos Jr, who marks his 100th day in office today, inherited daunting problems at home, including a coronavirus pandemic-battered economy, soaring inflation, unemployment and mounting foreign and domestic debt, in addition to longstanding poverty and decades-old insurgencies.
In terms of foreign policy, a key focus in his first months in office has been to rekindle US-Philippines relations.
But Marcos Jr, 65, is the namesake son of the dictator who was ousted in a 1986 pro-democracy uprising amid widespread human rights atrocities and plunder. He has defended his father’s legacy. Given US President Joe Biden’s high-profile advocacy for democracy and human rights, more than a few have been surprised over the goodwill that has unfolded between the leaders in recent months.
“It’s a quantum leap,” Manila-based analyst Richard Heydarian said. “Marcos Jr is, ironically, seen as a breath of fresh air in the US.”
America’s relations with the Philippines – its oldest treaty ally in Asia – entered a difficult period under former President Rodrigo Duterte. During his time at the country’s helm from 2016, he threatened to sever ties with Washington, kick visiting American forces out and once attempted to abrogate a major defence pact with the US while nurturing cozy ties with China and Russia.
Duterte made five visits to China and two to Russia but vowed never to set foot in America.
He had bristled at US criticisms of his notoriously deadly crackdown against illegal drugs, including by then-President Barack Obama, whom he cursed and asked in a speech “to go to hell.”
But Duterte’s successor took a different approach.
Last month, Marcos Jr flew to the US to deliver a speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and met Biden for the first time on the sidelines. Biden was the first world leader to call and congratulate Marcos Jr after his landslide victory in the May 9 elections.