PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte may be persuaded into accepting President Donald Trump’s invitation to an upcoming summit in the United States with Asian leaders, Malacañang said on Tuesday, January 21.
Malacañang released a statement on Monday that Duterte was among the 10 Southeast Asian leaders invited by Trump to U.S.-ASEAN summit on March 14 in Las Vegas.
“Given that this is an ASEAN meeting of leaders, baka ma-persuade si Presidente na um-attend (The president might be persuaded to attend),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Relations between the United States and the Philippines have been tense over the past few weeks as Trump signed the U.S.’ 2020 budget in December.
The budget reportedly included an amendment that the U.S. Secretary of State “shall apply sub-section (c) to foreign government officials about whom the secretary has credible information have been involved in the wrongful imprisonment of… Sen. Leila De Lima who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017.”
The sub-section refers to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act that authorizes the U.S. government to slap sanctions on persons tied to human rights violations, including barring them from entering the U.S.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution condemning Philippine government officials involved in De Lima’s detention.
Malacañang further said that the invitation for the Philippine president was first extended during the ASEAN-U.S. meeting in Bangkok in November, with Trump saying that the summit would provide “an excellent opportunity” to broaden and deepen cooperation between the U.S. and ASEAN on “matters of great importance” to the nearly one billion people in the U.S. and Southeast Asia.
The invitation was then reiterated by the U.S. through a letter dated January 9.
“This will provide excellent opportunity for us to broaden and deepen our cooperation on matters of great importance to the nearly one billion people in the United States and Asean nations that we have the privilege to represent. The American people and I hope to see you in the United States soon,” Trump’s letter read.
The American president added: “As the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific makes clear, we share a common vision for the future of this dynamic and diverse region, based upon respect for sovereignty, commitment to good governance and adherence to the rule of law.”
Malacañang has said that a meeting between Duterte and Trump would “reaffirm the longstanding alliance between the Philippines and the U.S.”
Duterte has been receiving invitations from Trump to visit the U.S. since April 2017 after their “friendly” conversation that also tackled regional security issues.
“It was a very friendly conversation, in which the two leaders discussed the concerns of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regarding regional security, including the threat posed by North Korea,” a previous White House statement read.
It added, “President Trump also invited President Duterte to the White House to discuss the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction.”
Then-presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella also confirmed the invitation, describing the conversation between Duterte and Trump as “warm.”
“If you are in Washington, give me a call and we’ll have coffee. Or, if you are in New York. And besides, you are doing it (anti-drug campaign) right,” Duterte quoted Trump during a speech in Pasay City on April 19, 2017.