President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will leave for Singapore next week, where he is expected to deliver the keynote address to mark the opening of the 21st edition of this year’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue.

“Only one leader delivers this address every year, and President Marcos was given the distinct honor for this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue,” said Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Assistant Secretary of the Office of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Aileen Mendiola-Rau.

His working visit to Singapore is also upon the invitation of former Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual inter-governmental security forum held in Singapore since 2002, is organized by the IISS, a prominent think-tank focusing on security and defense matters.

Other world leaders who have delivered keynote address for the event were Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (2023), Thailand Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (2016), Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak (2011), Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-Bak (2010) and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2009.

Entitled “International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue 2024,” this year’s dialogue will provide a good platform for defense ministers, military chiefs, government officials and security experts around the world to discuss and address regional and global security challenges.

Mendiola-Rau said the dialogue is attended by multiple stakeholders in defense, ranging from heads of governments, heads of states, and defense of ministers to industry players from about 40 countries with around 500 participants.

She said through the platform, the Philippines will have the opportunity to provide these stakeholders an important source of accurate, objective information on international strategic issues important to the region.

While DFA spokesperson Ambassador Ma. Teresita Daza does not want to pre-empt what could be discussed during the dialogue, she said it is “a good platform” where leaders can discuss issues happening within the region.

“When you have a forum such as this, it gives a good platform for a country to actually expound and articulate its position on key issues. So, it will be an important platform for us to actually also convey our positions relative to what is happening within the region and what we are advocating for,” she said.

Daza was referring to issues on the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“So, it’s something that is useful not only for those who are attending but also for the country who’s actually participating in this international fora,” she added.

On the sidelines of the visit, the President will meet new Singaporean President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Prime Minister Lawrence Wongas as part of efforts to strengthen the 55-year-old Philippines-Singapore diplomatic relations, she said.

She said President Marcos’ meeting with the Singaporean leaders comes at this very auspicious juncture.

“Also, very recently if you recall, Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was also in Manila and this is all part and parcel of celebration of the 55 years. This visit demonstrates the president’s commitment to ensuring a peaceful, secure and prosperous Philippines for all of our country here and abroad,” Mendiola-Rau said.

The President, likewise, will have a brief meeting with former Prime Minister and current Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

She emphasized that Singapore is an economic powerhouse, making it as one of the main points to be taken up aside from ensuring that the relationship continues under the new administration in Singapore.

With regard the rising COVID-19 cases in Singapore, she said Singapore presently does not have this bubble setup just like in China. “But we will, of course, [be mindful of] the usual DOH / WHO proposals or the usual protocols that they have informed all of us. So, we will be closely following that,” she pointed out.