Koko Pimentel cites ‘good returns’ of Duterte’s foreign trips

Camille Elemia
Koko Pimentel cites ‘good returns’ of Duterte’s foreign trips
'Let us look at the returns of the trips. Even if there is no return, we should understand; we are the ASEAN chair,' says Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III in defense of President Rodrigo Duterte's foreign trip expenses

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Wednesday, June 21, cited the “good returns” of President Rodrigo Duterte foreign trips during his first year in office.

Pimentel, president of the ruling PDP-Laban, came to the defense of his party mate when asked about Duterte’s foreign travel expenditures, amounting to at least P386.2 million ($7.72 million) in his 1st year in office. This amount excludes his last 4 trips to Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, and Russia. (READ: Duterte’s foreign trips cost thrice more than predecessors’)

He noted that because of Duterte’s foreign trips, world leaders have high “respect” for Duterte and the country, which he credited for the increase in tourist arrival to 11%.

Maganda nga ang returns. Ngayon 11% na ang tourist sa ating bansa. (There have been good returns. Now we have 11% tourists in the country). And then the respect of the world leaders for President Duterte and for the Philippines. I think if you ask OFWs, if they feel that the respect for Filipinos abroad has increased, this is sufficient enough return,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel, who has joined at least two presidential trips, said it is really expensive to travel abroad now.

He also attributed the higher costs to the Philippines’ chairmanship of the 2017 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

I think mahal talaga magbiyahe ngayon, napakamahal (I think it is really expensive to travel nowadays). So let us look at the returns of the trips. Even if wala ngang (there is no) return, we should understand we are the ASEAN chair. Ginawa naman niya ‘yan (He did that) as chair ng (of) ASEAN,” Pimentel told reporters in an interview.

Comparison

Pimentel said Duterte’s expenses should be compared with that of his predecessors to find out if these were “reasonable or not.”

Malacañang records, which Rappler obtained through the Freedom of Information request, show that Duterte spent about triple what his predecessors spent on foreign travels during his first year in power.

In comparison, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spent P80.6 million ($1.61 million)* on foreign travels in her first year in power, more than 4 times less what Duterte spent, given about the same dollar-peso exchange rates today.

Former president Benigno Aquino III spent P101.5 million ($2.03 million) for 8 trips in his first year, according to Commission on Audit (COA) data. Factoring in the $US1 = P40 exchange rate at the time, Duterte’s expenses today are about triple that of Aquino’s.

Asked about Duterte’s big delegation in his travels, Pimentel said it is pointless to talk about it now, as the President himself had said he no longer wanted to go on foreign trips. 

“Sa ngayon sabi ng Presidente ayaw na niya magbiyahe, so useless to talk about bawasan ‘yung delegation. Di na lalabas ng bansa si Pangulong Duterte as frequent as before,” he said.

(The President said he doesn’t want to travel anymore, so it’s useless to talk about reducing his delegation. President Duterte would no longer go abroad as frequently as before.)

At least 3 other administration senators also supported Duterte’s foreign trips, saying the outcome is more important than the expenditures. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com