MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network): After days of remaining silent on reports that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr was in Singapore over the weekend to watch the F1 Grand Prix, Malacanang finally issued a brief statement on social media on Monday (Oct 3), saying that his trip to the city-state was “productive.”
In a Facebook post, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said that the president took the opportunity to follow up matters that were taken up during a state visit to Singapore last month.
“President Marcos’ visit to Singapore was productive. He strengthened the major items discussed during his state visit to this country, and continued to encourage investment to the Philippines,” she said.
Angeles’ statement did not provide details on the “major items” discussed in the president’s recent state visit nor identify the people who Marcos met on his return. She also did not say why the trip was not announced before the president left the country last week.
But the statement was accompanied by a Facebook post by Singaporean Manpower Minister Tan See Leng about officials from different countries who were at the race.
“Happy to meet various Heads of States, Ministers and foreign dignitaries to affirm our bilateral economic relationships and strengthen collaborations in energy cooperation as well as exchange views on manpower policies on the sidelines of the race,” Tan said.
Among the people he mentioned in his post were Marcos; President of Palau Surangel Whipps Jr; Dr. Fahad Abdullah Toonsi, adviser of the royal court of Saudi Arabia and secretary general of the Saudi Secretariat for the G-20; Pan Sorasak, Cambodian commerce minister; and Keo Rottanak, Cambodian minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office and managing director of the state-run Electricite du Cambodge.
Tan even posted a photo of him with the different dignitaries, including President Marcos.
“I hope everyone had a chance to soak in the Singapore Grand Prix activities, whether it is the race or lifestyle experiences happening in town and within our community,” he said.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page also posted several pictures of the event, including one showing him with the president and first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos.
“Happy to link up again with friends from both here and abroad. They were excited to be here, to watch the race and enjoy the good company,” Lee said.
When contacted on Friday, the Office of the Press Secretary said it had no information at that time about Marcos’ Singapore trip. It remained tight-lipped over the weekend, neither responding to media inquiries or issuing a statement on the matter.
A source, however, told the Inquirer that the president left on Saturday for a two-day trip to the city-state to watch the F1 Grand Prix that had been cancelled for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A single day pass to the race cost up to SG$988 (around P40,000) while three-day passes went for as much as SG$1,288 (P52,900), depending on the viewer’s location at the track.
The Marcos couple, who were accompanied by their son Ilocos Norte Rep. Sandro Marcos and Speaker Martin Romualdez, reportedly stayed at the exclusive F1 Paddock Club which charged US$8,000 for a two-day access to the F1.
The younger Marcos and his rumoured girlfriend, actress Alexa Miro, were even featured on the F1 Singapore official website.
A colleague of Sandro Marcos, House Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, said he saw “nothing wrong” about the president’s weekend trip, saying he was not the only state leader from South-East Asia to be invited to the event.
“I think the government officials of Singapore, to my understanding, were inviting officials from different parts of South-East Asia... I think it so happened that it is an event for them to get together and socialise,” he told reporters.
Dalipe went on: “Let’s face it, right now if you look at the political landscape of South-East Asia, the president is the leader for South-East Asia. So it’s unavoidable that he would be invited to that event where all other leaders of South-East Asia are also invited. I think there’s nothing wrong with that.”
But for ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, the trip was “a punch in the gut of hungry Filipinos.”
“If indeed President Marcos Jr used government resources for [an] obviously personal, extravagant, and frivolous junket in [a] time of economic hardship, then it is like a punch in the gut of hungry Filipinos,” Castro said in a statement on Sunday, just before the Palace’s confirmation.
“As it is, this whole Singapore Grand Prix trip is insensitive and callous in light of the suffering of Filipinos,” she added.
In separate statements, Bayan and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also scored Marcos over his “irresponsible, callous” jet-setting lifestyle even as Filipinos suffer the crunch of inflation.
“Why does the President think it’s okay to take a private jet to Singapore to watch the return of the F1 Grand Prix? How much are the Filipino taxpayers paying for this trip?” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes asked.
KMP leader Rafael Mariano, on the other hand, criticised Marcos for his “imprudent behaviour and excessive lifestyle, (which) are truly unbecoming of a public servant.”
He expressed concern that the president “cannot give up his partying and leisurely habits” — which his own father and namesake, former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr, often mentioned in his private diaries.
“Filipinos have all the reason to be furious. Marcos Jr spent more time for celebrations, parties and trips abroad rather than working round-the-clock to attend to the country’s woes,” Mariano said.