MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is still “pondering” over an invitation to attend a leaders’ summit in the United States as he expressed reservations on Washington’s offer, including uncertainties on being granted a visa, Malacañang said Thursday.
Duterte appeared to have hesitations on whether he would be granted a US visa or even allowed entry to the country, his spokesman Salvador Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.
“I do not even know if the US will even issue me a visa, I do not know if I will be allowed entry,” Panelo said quoting Duterte.
Panelo said some American lawmakers might also be “unhappy” over Duterte’s presence in the US following an entry ban included in Washington’s 2020 budget law against top Philippine officials behind drug charges that led to the detention of his critic Sen. Leila de Lima.
“He (Duterte) said he has to ponder over it because he doesn’t want to go there and if he’s already there, some US senators might be unhappy seeing him there,” Panelo said.
De Lima previously said the ban could cover the likes of Duterte.
On Wednesday, Duterte ally Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa said his US visa had been canceled for a still unknown reason. He was national police chief when De Lima was arrested in February 2017.
The White House invited Duterte and other Southeast Asian leaders to attend a summit between the US and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on March 4 in Las Vegas.
Earlier this week, Panelo said Duterte may be swayed into visiting the US for the summit even though the President has several times said he would never set foot on American soil.
Panelo said it was now up to the US to clarify its invitation to President Duterte for the summit.
“The ball has been thrown to them then they have to do something about it,” Panelo said.
“Let the US receive whatever signals it wants to receive from the statements of the President,” he added.