Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. Visits Hawai‘i

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. Visits Hawai‘i

By Consul General Emil T. Fernandez

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. undertook the final leg of his trip to the United States of America last month with a working visit to Honolulu, Hawai‘i last November 18 and 19.

Upon arrival at the Hickam Air Force Base, the President was warmly welcomed at the airport by leading officials including Hawai‘i Governor Josh Green, U.S. Representative Ed Case, U.S. Representative Jill Tokuda, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi, State of Hawai‘i Director of the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations Jade Butay, U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson and Consul General Emil Fernandez.

President Marcos Jr. waves to the crowd during the gathering with members of the Filipino community of Hawai‘i at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
PPA pool photo: Marianne Bermudez

From the airport, the President proceeded directly to the Hawai‘i Convention Center, where he met with members of the thriving Filipino community in the State, which has the second most populous Filipino-American population after California. He outlined various government programs and initiatives under his administration’s ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ brand of governance and expressed his gratitude for their valuable economic contributions through remittances, especially during the economic slump caused by the pandemic.

“I have waited a very long time to say, ‘Aloha!’ The Filipinos and the Filipino-Americans in Hawai‘i hold a very special place in my heart for all the wonderful experiences we had here with our Filipino compatriots,” said the President as he expressed his profound gratitude to the Filipino community in Hawai‘i which embraced him and his family after they were forced to flee the Philippines following the political unrest in February 1986.

During the gathering, the President recounted his memories of when they arrived in Hawai‘i and the warm welcome they received from the Filipino community. “These are the people who kept us alive for six years. We landed here in Honolulu with nothing. My family was flown from Malacañan Palace to Hickam Air Force Base and when we finally moved to Makiki Heights… we had nothing with us, they kept everything to inspect everything. These were the people who kept body and soul together of the Marcos family,” he remarked, recalling the moments when they arrived at the Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.

Consul General Fernandez greets President Marcos Jr. upon arrival at the Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu.
Photo courtesy Philippine Consulate in Honolulu

He also acknowledged those in the audience who became close to them, including the security members of the Presidential Security Command (PSC), the predecessor of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), who remained loyal to the Marcos family.

Moreover, President Marcos Jr. offered a prayer and a moment of silence for the victims of the Maui wildfires that occurred last August, claiming the lives of 26 Filipino and Filipino-Americans and impacted many more.

Continuing with his remarks, the Chief Executive referred to the gathering as a celebration of the strong connection between the Philippines and Hawai‘i. He also emphasized the significant role of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the economy and vibrant history of Hawai‘i, which have continued to flourish in various industries since the arrival of the first fifteen Filipino immigrants, known as Sakadas in 1906 to work in plantations and fight alongside Americans during the war.

President Marcos Jr. and Admiral Aquilino give a ceremonial salute during the arrival honors at USINDOPACOM.
Photo courtesy USINDOPACOM

“Today, we see highly successful second and third generation Filipinos, as well as present-day migrants, who are an indelible part of society. Because of you, the Philippines enjoys a very positive image in Hawai‘i. Thank you for all that you do for our country,” he said.

The President also extended his deepest appreciation for garnering eighty-three percent of the total votes in Hawai‘i during the 2022 overseas voting exercise.

“Even from the time of my father, you have been by our side in our quest to serve the country. From the bottom of my heart, I must say that I thank you for trusting me, for believing in this leadership. In return, I and my administration will be hard at work and have been hard at work from day one, to ensure that we accomplish all that we have set out to do,” Marcos Jr. said.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. visited the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
Photo courtesy USINDOPACOM

President Marcos Jr. highlighted the outcomes of his participation in the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, California and announced positive economic growth. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased to 7.6 percent in 2022 and grew by 5.3 percent in the first half of 2023, surpassing projections. Employment and jobs are at historic highs with tourism, investment registration and manufacturing activity contributing significantly to GDP at 18.7 percent in 2022.

“So, I ask all of you, continue to be supportive of your government and of the Philippines. You have worked hard to build your lives here. You are the glue that holds us together. Let us keep traffic bustling between our two homes. Let us continue working together towards building a stronger Philippine Republic. I count on your support,” Marcos Jr. urged, concluding his message.

The President continued his working visit the following day with an engagement at the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), where he met with US security-related officials, led by Admiral John Aquilino, USINDOPACOM Commander.

President Marcos Jr. and Admiral (Ret.) Pete Gumataotao, Director of the DKI-APCSS, engage in conversation following the President’s remarks.
Photo courtesy DKI-APCSS

The USINDOPACOM is the oldest and largest combatant command of the US, with over 380,000 personnel, including soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians, coast guardsmen and Department of Defense civilians. The Command oversees all US military activities in the Indo-Pacific region, which includes thirty-six nations, fourteen time zones and more than 50 percent of the global population.

The Chief Executive also took time from his schedule to lay a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor to honor the fallen service members from the attack on December 7, 1941. The Memorial is situated above the sunken remains of the USS Arizona battleship, which sank during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

President Marcos Jr. delivers the donation from the Philippine Government to Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke to aid in the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Maui.
Photo courtesy DKI-APCSS

President Marcos Jr. laid a wreath at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor to pay respects to fallen service members from the December 7, 1941 attack.

During the attack, the Philippines was a Territory of the United States, and a significant number of Filipinos served in the U.S. Armed Forces, including the Army and Navy. Moreover, numerous Filipinos were assigned to different ships and military installations at Pearl Harbor.

The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in an overall death toll of 2,403, including sixty-eight civilians and 2,335 military personnel. This figure includes individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds, among them Filipinos.

Some Mauians attended the event at the Convention Center in Honolulu. Angelina Abapo (from left), Boyet Tamayo, Tante and Araceli Urban, Bessy and Alfredo Evangelista and D.J. Metzler.
Photo courtesy D.J. Metzler

The USS Arizona Memorial is part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which encompasses several historical sites related to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Capping off his three-city Working Visit to the United States, President Marcos Jr. graced the Daniel K. Inouye Speaker Series dubbed “Perspectives on a Secure, Stable and Prosperous Indo-Pacific,” hosted by the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS) in Waikiki, Honolulu.

In his keynote speech, the President unveiled two challenges the Philippines is currently facing: securing the peace in the West Philippine Sea and securing strategic sectors and critical infrastructure. He also highlighted his administration’s plans and initiatives aimed at tackling these issues.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. takes the podium and speaks.
Photo courtesy Alfredo G. Evangelista

Discussing the first challenge, President Marcos Jr. gave updates on the escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea, including the persistent, unlawful threats and challenges against Philippine sovereign rights, as well as jurisdiction violating obligations under international law.

“There is rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and militarization of reclaimed features in the South China Sea,” he said, noting how these illegal activities could lead to irreparable and irreversible damage to the Philippine marine biodiversity, which can imperil livelihood and the future generations of Filipinos.

“So, as I have said it before and I will say again, the Philippines will not give a single square inch of our territory to any foreign power,” President Marcos Jr. affirmed.

Filipino folk dancers take the stage at the reception for Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu.
Photo courtesy Alfredo G. Evangelista

He also expressed optimism for the elevation of U.S. and Philippine partnerships that would accelerate concrete and substantial capability development investments and activities to meet the two countries’ shared defense and security objectives over the next five years.

Addressing the second challenge, the Chief Executive advocated for public-private partnerships, particularly in initiatives supporting collaboration within and beyond military and defense establishments.

President Marcos Jr. also cited the importance of developing cyber space technology, wherein the Philippines and U.S. are planning to convene the inaugural interagency PH-U.S. Cyber Dialogue early next year to follow through on their commitment to enhance cooperation in the face of new and emerging threats to cyber security.

“These challenges will continue to evolve but I am confident that, together, we will be able to manage them. Our alliance is stronger than ever because it has been founded on our shared values, our mutual respect and trust for each other as equal, sovereign partners and the unbreakable bonds between our two peoples,” he concluded in his message.

Following the interview discussions, President Marcos Jr. presented a donation to the State of Hawai‘i in support of its recovery and rebuilding efforts for the people of Maui affected by the August 8 wildfires.

Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke received the donation on behalf of the Maui Strong Fund of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation. Standing alongside Lieutenant Governor Luke during the ceremony were U.S. Representative Case, U.S. Representative Tokuda, State Senator Donovan dela Cruz and State Senator Henry Aquino.

In his remarks to members of the Filipino community at the Hawai‘i Convention Center the day earlier, the President remembered those who lost their lives following the deadly wildfires. He prayed for those who perished in the blaze during the meet and greet. He said, “Pinapanood naming ang mga pangyayari sa Maui, kawawa naman yung atin mga Pilipino na naging casualty, so before I proceed, let us share a moment of silence as we remember those who perished in the devastating wildfires in Maui last August.”

During his visit, President Marcos Jr. also authorized the disbursement of another $100,000 for Filipino survivors and relatives of the wildfire fatalities. This follows the initial $100,000 already distributed by the Philippine Consulate in Honolulu to Filipinos impacted by the tragedy, bringing to $300,000 the total amount provided by the Philippine Government thus far for victims of the disaster.

Accompanying the President were several high-level Philippine Government officials in Hawai‘i, including House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, Trade & Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Press Secretary Cheloy Garafil, National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano, Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, Deputy House Speaker Ralph Recto, Migrant Workers Undersecretary Patricia Caunan and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Romeo Brawner.

Emil T. Fernandez is the current Consul General of the Philippines stationed in Honolulu. He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Economics. Prior to his appointment to Hawai‘i, Fernandez served as Deputy Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany. His other foreign assignments included Washington, D.C. (2010-2016), Santiago, Chile (2005-2008) and Caracas, Venezuela (2002-2005). In Manila, Fernandez held several important positions, including Executive Director of the Office of Asian & Pacific Affairs (2016-2018), Director for Southern Europe of the Office of European Affairs (2009-2010), Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations (2008-2009) and Acting Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs (1999-2001).