Rodrigo Duterte

Duterte, grateful for vaccine donations, now says he could visit US

Sofia Tomacruz
Duterte, grateful for vaccine donations, now says he could visit US

FRIEND OF AMERICA? In this file photo, President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the inauguration of the Bonifacio Global City to Ortigas Center Road Link Project in Taguig City on September 30, 2021.

Malacañang photo

'Ang bait ng Amerika. Baka pupunta ako doon just to thank the American government and the people,' says the Philippine leader

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, September 30, considered visiting the United States to show his gratitude for its COVID-19 vaccine donations, the biggest so far to be given to the Philippines from a single country. 

Ang bait ng Amerika. Baka pupunta ako doon just to thank the American government and the people. Ano na bang itsura ng Amerika? (America is so kind. Maybe I will go there just to thank the American government and the people. What’s America like now?)” Duterte said in a televised address.

Duterte made the statement after vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told him that the US was directly donating 5 million more doses to the country. This comes on top of the 9 million doses the US government donated to the Philippines. 

In a separate forum on Thursday afternoon, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said the additional 5.3 million doses would be Pfizer’s vaccine. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) would also allocate an additional $11.3 million in assistance, bringing total assistance so far to over $39 million. 

Duterte’s latest statement is a marked turn from his earlier position that he would not visit the US, one of the Philippines’ oldest allies, during his term as chief executive. 

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The Philippine leader declared this throughout his presidency and repeated it in July, during his final State of the Nation Address, saying, “I do not have any intention of visiting anymore.” Duterte said any trip, if it all, would be done in his “own time.”

Duterte also rejected several invitations to visit Washington during his term. Even after the assumption of Donald Trump, with whom he had built rapport, Duterte had repeatedly stated he would never visit “lousy” America.

Bilateral ties between the Philippines and the US have been strained under Duterte, who repeatedly lashed out at Washington for “interfering” in his controversial drug war.

Relations hit a low after Duterte terminated the Visiting Forces Agreement between the two countries in February 2020. But the President reversed his decision and the key military pact was restored last July. Duterte had cited the move of the US to donate COVID-19 vaccine doses as a factor that pushed him to keep the VFA. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.