Duterte will decline any invitation to visit America

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. (AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2019

Duterte will decline any invitation to visit America

  • Trump first invited Duterte to the White House during a phone call between the two leaders in 2017

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will decline any invitation to visit the White House, the presidential palace in Manila announced on Friday.

“If I remember correctly, he (Duterte) said he would respond to the letter (of) invitation and decline it,” the president’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, said at a press briefing.

US President Donald Trump signed the US Fiscal Year 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act on August 2. The act contains a provision that could result in a ban on Philippine government officials involved in the imprisonment of opposition Senator Leila de Lima entering the US. Panelo insisted Duterte’s refusal to visit the US is not linked to the act.

“Repeatedly, many times, every time we talk that’s what he says,” Panelo said. “From the very beginning, even during the campaign, he already said that.”

Trump first invited Duterte to the White House during a phone call between the two leaders in 2017. But after a US lawmaker condemned his controversial war on drugs, the Philippine leader rejected the invitation and vowed never to visit “lousy” America.

Meanwhile, Panelo also announced that Duterte had issued a directive that the two American senators who pushed the provision to deny Filipino officials involved in the imprisonment of de Lima entry to the US would not be allowed to enter the Philippines.

“The Philippines is immediately ordering the Bureau of Immigration to deny US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy — the imperious, uninformed and gullible American legislators who introduced the subject provision in the 2020 budget — entry to the Philippines,” Panelo said.

He also said claims that de Lima was wrongfully imprisoned — and any travel restrictions resulting from those claims — made no sense, as the Filipino senator is currently “detained pending trial.”

De Lima — a vocal critic of Duterte and his war on drugs —has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, Camp Crame, since 2017 on drug charges, which she has vehemently denied.


Joint US military drills get thumbs down from Thais amid coronavirus fears

Updated 37 sec ago

Joint US military drills get thumbs down from Thais amid coronavirus fears

  • Some 106 American soldiers will join three separate exercises from Aug. 18 to 30
  • ‘Is it really necessary to take in foreign soldiers now? If it does not impact the relationship just postpone it’

BANGKOK: This month’s joint US-Thai military exercises in Thailand have drawn criticism from Thais on social media after authorities announced that dozens of visiting American troops would be undergoing their mandatory 14-day quarantine in Bangkok hotels.
Some 106 American soldiers will join three separate exercises from Aug. 18 to 30 in three provinces and would be subjected to the same requirements as anyone entering the country, said the head of the Thai Army’s anti-COVID-19 Unit, Nattapon Srisawat.
Thailand has been over two months without a local transmission and has kept infections to just over 3,300.
It has closed borders and airspace to tourists to keep the virus out and allows entry only to Thai repatriates or foreigners with special permission. All must undergo quarantine.
A popular Thai Facebook page attracted 25,000 likes when it questioned the necessity of holding joint exercises between the two historic allies amid a global health crisis.
“Is it really necessary to take in foreign soldiers now? If it does not impact the relationship just postpone it,” it said.
“Even citizens who need to travel have delayed their plans, why can’t the military training be postponed?”
More than 70 American soldiers arrived from the US Pacific territory of Guam on Monday and would be staying in alternative state quarantine, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the country’s coronavirus task force, referring to the mandatory quarantine that foreigners must undergo at their own expense.
More troops were due to arrive on Tuesday from Japan.
Asked about the criticism of the drills, Nattapon said that participants will have undergone two tests and would not be exposed to the public during the exercises.
“These soldiers will not be able leave the barracks,” he added.
The exercises come as Thailand’s military suspended sending forces abroad after nine Thai personnel tested positive for the coronavirus upon return from training in Hawaii.
The US embassy in Bangkok did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.