December 28, 2023
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has been in office for a year and six months.
As he spends his second Christmas as the Chief Executive, he describes 2023 as the period for changes at the core.
“Those structural changes were necessary because we have to remodel, or readjust rather, our… for example, our fiscal policy, even our monetary policy, our spending policy, so that we are slowly moving, or not so slowly, so, we’re moving away from the COVID economy,” observed Marcos.
He made the remark during a media interview as he went to Japan trip in December.
Changes were, indeed, present in the halls of Malacañang.
The events this year included Marcos signing the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund and the completion of the Presidential cabinet.
The president’s cabinet was capped by the appointment of Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as Agriculture Secretary, replacing Marcos himself.
INQUIRER.net takes a look back at Marcos’ movements and decisions in 2023:
Many of Marcos’ policies and actions this year centered around the economy.
Eager to move away from a financial situation devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Marcos pushed for easier business dealings to help entrepreneurs.
Another notable reform is that foreigners can now own 100 percent of renewable energy projects, as per Department of Energy.
An economic charter change is also being mulled to further ease business processes in Philippines.
The President has yet to issue a decisive stance on amending the 1987 Constitution.
Marcos merely said proposals are being studied.
Most notably, the Chief Executive promptly signed and enacted into law the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund.
Despite questions on its constitutionality, the measure was quickly passed by both chambers of Congress through overwhelming majority votes.
The crafting of the Fund’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) was briefly suspended in October, sparking more criticisms on the ways that it will be executed.
Nevertheless, Marcos himself said the enforcement of the new law will push through.
In November, the IRR was finalized.
While Marcos’ many overseas trips this year are connected to his push for economic improvement, the volume of his travel warrants a separate discussion.
In January, Marcos said he would lessen his flights to foreign countries in 2023.
But with 12 countries visited this year, Marcos took trips that are twice as many as the travels he made in 2022.
Marcos kicked off 2023 with a state visit to China from January 3 to 6.
A total of 14 bilateral ties were signed, which covered agreements on South China Sea row, tourism, trade and more.
A few days after the trip to China, Marcos went to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum from January 16 to 20.
He was the only Asean leader in attendance.
He said he wanted to attract investments.
Marcos had a five-day working visit to Tokyo for the Philippine Business Opportunities Forum.
During the trip, Marcos brought home $13 billion in investment pledges and around 24,000 job opportunities.
Marcos went to Washington DC in United States (US) to meet President Joe Biden.
The meeting was held amid Philippines’ heightened tensions with China over West Philippine Sea dispute.
The US trip was meant to reaffirm US’ ironclad commitment to Philippines’ external defense.
Straight from US, Marcos next flew to London on May 5 to attend the coronation of King Charles III.
A few days after, Marcos went to Labuan Bajo, Indonesia for the 42nd Asean Summit.
There, the Chief Executive met with regional leaders.
Indonesia was the 2023 summit host.
Marcos went on a second trip to Indonesia for another Asean summit later in the year.
The President made a state visit to Malaysia from July 25 to July 27.
During his stay, $285 million worth of investment pledges were secured from Malaysian traders.
Marcos made his second trip to Indonesia, this time in Jakarta.
He attended the 43rd Asean Summit, where he met with US Vice President Kamala Harris, Canadian Prime Minister (PM) Justin Trudeau, and other regional leaders.
Singapore was one of Marcos’ controversial trips.
He was invited to speak at the summit.
The trip became controversial when he also attended a Formula 1 (F1) racing event upon the invitation of Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong.
The activity happened to fall on Marcos’ birthday week.
The Chief Executive went to Saudi Arabia for the Asean Gulf Cooperation Council Summit.
Palace said he brought home $4.2 billion in investment pledges.
During a five-day trip to US for the Asia Pacific Economic Forum (Apec), Marcos visited 3 cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Honolulu.
He became the first Philippine President to set foot inside the base of US Indo-Pacific Command.
On his last trip of the year, Marcos went back to Tokyo for the Asean-Japan meeting.
Marcos and Japanese PM Fumio Kishida reached bilateral agreements and discussed a reciprocal access agreement.
“We have changed the structure of the different agencies and equally… importantly, we are beginning to find the best people for each of those positions,” said Marcos.
In 2023, Marcos finally completed his cabinet.
Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil was appointed in January after serving as the agency’s officer-in-charge for four months.
Gilbert Teodoro was named as Defense Secretary and Teodoro Herbosa was chosen as Health chief in June.
Marcos initially appointed himself as the country’s agriculture secretary.
He held on to the post for more than a year.
The President defended his position from criticisms, saying that his stature as Chief Executive would allow agricultural policies to be prioritized.
To this day, Philippines, however, continue to experience rampant high prices of agricultural commodities.
Marcos attributed the high prices to hoarders.
He ordered Department of Justice and National Bureau of Investigation to go after them.
High food prices became so rampant that Marcos ordered a rice price cap in September.
He lifted the price ceiling a month later in October.
Bongbong Marcos also ordered price caps for rice at P41 to P45 per kilo.
A month later, Marcos appointed business tycoon Francis Tiu Laurel Jr. as the new Agriculture Secretary.
In June, another controversy ensued with the appointment of Supreme-Court disbarred lawyer Larry Gadon as an anti-poverty czar.
The position was not that of a cabinet member.
In November, Marcos appointed Rafael Consing Jr. as President and Chief Executive Officer of Maharlika Investment Corporation.
Marcos began 2023 with a visit to Beijing with hopes of alleviating the territorial dispute.
However, Philippines’ relations with China were continuously tested by multiple confrontations between Philippine Coast Guard and Chinese Coast Guard in West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Beijing constantly blamed Manila for these incidents.
China told Philippines to withdraw the military outpost BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin Shoal.
This time, Marcos deviated from the position of his predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, who was close with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The President made stronger pronouncements against the confrontations in WPS.
He vowed that Philippines will not lose one square inch of its territory to the sea row.
The President in August debunked Beijing’s claim that Philippines supposedly agreed in the past to take away BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungun Shoal.
“I’m not aware of any such arrangement or agreement that the Philippines will remove from its own territory its own ship, in this case, the BRP Sierra Madre, from the Ayungin Shoal,” said Marcos
“And let me go further – if there does exist such an agreement, I rescind that agreement as of now,” the President made it clear.
Chinese aggression in Philippine waters reached fever pitch when Chinese and Philippine vessels collided in October.
Marcos immediately ordered an investigation into the encounter.
After a year of repeated tensions in West Philippine Sea, Marcos saw the need for change.
“It’s time that the countries that feel that they have an involvement in this situation,” he told a Japanese media outlet during his December trip to Tokyo.
“We have to come up with a paradigm shift,” he revealed his new decision.
The Chief Executive ended 2023 with a request for a reciprocal access agreement with Japan.
If the accord will be sealed, it will mark the first time Philippines is drawing a Visiting Forces Agreement with another Asian country.