Palace mum on Duterte’s response to US invitation
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang has kept mum on whether or not President Duterte will accept an invitation from US President Donald Trump to visit America as one of the Southeast Asian leaders scheduled for a summit in March.
No one from the Palace could give a comment on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-United States Summit slated March 14 in Las Vegas.
A statement from the Department of Foreign (DFA) only quoted Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. as confirming that the recent ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat held in Nga Trang, Vietnam had adopted the consensus to hold the ASEAN-US Summit with Trump.
Visiting Batangas yesterday to check on the welfare of evacuees from the eruption of Taal Volcano, Duterte did not mention anything about the US invitation nor his intention to attend or skip the summit.
The invitation, first conveyed during the US-ASEAN meeting in Bangkok, Thailand last November, was extended to the President and nine other heads of state of the ASEAN. The invitation was reiterated to the ASEAN leaders last Jan. 9.
The US recently passed a budget provision that banned Philippine officials involved in the incarceration of Sen. Leila de Lima from setting foot on American soil.
Under the Global Magnitsky Act, the 2020 US Appropriations Act included a Prohibition on Entry provision against persons whose actions have run counter to the US commitment to human rights.
Several Philippine officials were deemed to fall under that category over their prosecution of De Lima and Duterte’s war on drugs. In response, the President said that he was not interested in visiting the US anyway.
At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting last Jan. 16-17, it was “agreed that frequent high level engagements between the Leaders (of the ASEAN-US Summit) would be of crucial importance,” said Locsin.
“We welcomed the invitation by President of the US to convene a Special Summit to commemorate the 5th Anniversary of ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership this year and would report this to the Leaders for final decision,” the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat Chairman’s statement said.
Apart from the US invitation, the ministers also discussed the situation in the South China Sea, during which concerns were expressed on land reclamation, recent developments and serious incidents which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace, security and stability in the region, the DFA said.
For her part, De Lima said the US invitation to Duterte could mean that the US government is not yet implementing the entry ban as this could still be undergoing some internal process.
“Hence, it remains the prerogative of the US president to extend anew a standing invitation,” she said.