By Alex P. Vidal
“With power comes the abuse of power. And where there are bosses, there are crazy bosses. It’s nothing new.”—Judd Rose
THE presence of Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, representing President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., in the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City from September 18-26, 2023, was already enough.
It was not necessary for the overburdened Filipino taxpayers to spend more for the travel of Manalo’s companions composed of several cabinet officials and League of Cities in the Philippines (LCP) executives.
Why would these junketers be part of the “delegation” when all the activities and the important speech to be delivered “on behalf of President Marcos” during the UNGA General Debate would be done only by Manalo?
For instance, when Manalo represented the Philippine Government in the fissile material cut-off treaty September 19 with Japan and Australia ministers, the presence of those junketers was no longer necessary.
How urgent is the presence of the junketers in the week-long UNGA that would warrant additional expenses representing their round-trip air tickets, allowances, hotel bills, etcetera, from Juan dela Cruz?
When it comes to junket and waste of people’s money, the Philippines has always been in the frontline.
A fissile material cutoff treaty, by the way, would ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes.
The Philippines joined Japan and Australia in urging the international community to negotiate treaty to curb fissile materials during the September 19 conference.
Fissile materials, principally highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, are the essential ingredients for building nuclear weapons. The effective control and elimination of fissile materials is an essential step toward effective non-proliferation and a precondition for nuclear disarmament.
As of the beginning of 2022, the global stockpile of HEU is reportedly approximately 1,250 tons, which is a decrease of 190 tons from the 1,440-ton stockpile in 2011.
This is reportedly enough HEU to make approximately 84,000 first-generation implosion bombs of the Nagasaki type. Approximately 88 percent of this HEU is available for or in weapons. Approximately 99.66 percent of the global stockpile of HEU is located in the nine nuclear weapon states, while the remaining .33 percent is located in Norway and Australia for civilian purposes. Russia owns 54.4 percent of global HEU, followed by the United States with 39 percent.
Before the 78th UNGA, Manalo was quoted in the Philippine press as saying, “On behalf of President Marcos, I will deliver the Philippine National Statement during the UNGA General Debate… I will articulate the Philippines’ advocacies for respect for the rule of law and ambitious climate action, as well as our achievements and aspirations as a middle-income economy with an important voice in global affairs.”
There was no mention of the role the junketers would perform while joining Manalo in the expensive US trip.
Manalo had noted that the country would organize side events during the high-level week, which includes the Skilling, Upskilling and Reskilling for a Resilient Workforce, co-hosted with Indonesia and Laos, on Sept. 17; the High-Level Event Promoting the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, co-hosted with Japan and Australia, on Sept. 19 and the Ministerial Roundtable on Migration, Environment and Climate Change in the Asia Pacific Region on Sept. 21.
Some of those who traveled with Manalo were officials from DFA, Department of Environment and Natural Resources led by Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga, Department of Health led by Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, National Economic Development Authority led by Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon, and Department of Finance.
IMPORTANT UNGA EVENT. I missed the opening of the 78th UNGA on September 18, which happened to be my birthday, because it was raining the whole day in New York. The UN Headquarters is located two blocks away from my workplace in the the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Midtown Manhattan.
On September 21, 2023, Ambassador James O’Brien, Head of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, was scheduled to host a roundtable discussion with environmental defenders and NGOs on the margins of the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) high-level week.
The discussion would focus on ways to confront and prevent violence against environmental defenders. UNGA high-level week provides an opportunity to advance key White House priorities related to protecting human rights, Indigenous peoples and local communities, and combating nature crimes including trafficking in timber, wildlife, and precious metals and gemstones.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)