Philippines president Marcos takes helicopter to Coldplay concert

Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos Jr standing behind a podium

By Vicky Wong

BBC News

The president of the Philippines is facing criticism on social media for using a presidential helicopter to attend a Coldplay concert in a province north of the capital, Manila.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr and his wife were spotted arriving at the Philippine Arena via helicopter on Friday.

Critics have called this a misuse of government resources.

Mr Marcos Jr’s office defended the move, citing “unforeseen traffic complications”.

The head of Mr Marcos’ Presidential Security Group (PSG), Brig Gen Jesus Nelson Morales, said in a statement published on Saturday that the “unprecedented influx of 40,000 individuals eagerly attending a concert” resulted in traffic complications, and that this posed a security threat to the president.

Brig Gen Morales went on to ask for the public’s understanding, adding that the “continued understanding and support for these measures are crucial in maintaining the safety and well-being of our nation’s leadership”.

The Philippine Arena, located deep in the suburbs, is usually around 40 minutes by car from the presidential palace – absent the capital’s notorious traffic jams. By public transport, the same route can take one to two hours.

Mr Marcos Jr and his wife Liza Araneta-Marcos were among the thousands of fans who attended Coldplay’s concert at the Philippine Arena, the world’s largest indoor arena.

Videos and photos of the first couple drew ire from social media users, who criticised the use of taxpayer money by Mr Marcos, who is the son and namesake of the late strongman president whose rule ended nearly four decades ago in a historic “people power” revolution.

“Using official resources, like the presidential chopper, for personal and non-official activities is generally considered an abuse of power or misuse of government resources,” Facebook user James Patrick Aristorenas said in a post on Saturday.

“We paid for the use of the chopper, fuel and security, who knows even for the tickets for everyone,” Facebook user Arvine Concepcion said.

In a survey published on Friday, Metro Manila topped the 2023 TomTom Traffic Index list of metro areas with the slowest travel time, taking an average time of 25 minutes and 30 seconds to travel 10km in the region. This has been blamed on creaking infrastructure and an inadequate public transport system.

Filipino office workers in the Metro Manila area often spend hours stuck in traffic. Many wake up before dawn in order to get to work on time.

According to news site Rappler, Coldplay’s front man Chris Martin also remarked on the Philippine traffic, thanking fans for braving it to see the band live.

“We’ve seen some traffic. But I think you have the number one [traffic] in the world. Thank you for making the effort…to be here,” he said.

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