After summit rebuff, Duterte-Turnbull phone call being arranged
After Malacañang announced President Rodrigo Duterte will skip a major regional summit in Australia, the Australian embassy in the Philippines is expecting a phone call between the Philippine leader and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Rappler learned this from a source after Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the announcement on Monday, March 5.
The Palace statement was the unfavorable but not unexpected development in the embassy's efforts to get Duterte to attend the crucial summit in Sydney.
The exact time and date of the conversation between the two leaders are still being finalized, said the same source.
Duterte, according to another source, was the last of the 10 Southeast Asian leaders to confirm whether or not they will be attending the gathering, meant to celebrate 14 years of ties between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia.
The embassy thought of several ways to convince Duterte to attend the summit, even wondering if a certain influential member of the House of Representatives could serve as a bridge.
In one diplomatic meeting, it was suggested that this lawmaker bring up the Australian summit with the hotheaded Duterte since he listens to them on matters pertaining to security and diplomacy.
There had even been plans to set up a phone call between Turnbull and Duterte where the Prime Minister would enumerate the benefits of attending the summit, including promoting a unified approach and addressing the negative perception should Duterte, previous ASEAN chairman, not participate.
Duterte had previously voiced his frustration with international summits, saying he wanted "more than just talk" from such events.
Will the planned phone call between Turnbull and Duterte, after the Malacañang announcement, still be a last-ditch effort to get the Philippine leader to go? Or could it be just a way for the two leaders to touch base since Duterte is not attending?
Whatever the case, the Australian embassy is determined to get on Duterte's good side, going as far as planning to hold Australia's Friendship Day celebrations in Davao City, the President's hometown. The Australians want the event – set to take place in May – to be held on a Saturday since the President often flies home during weekends.
Duterte and the Australian government got on the wrong footing even before he was elected president. Back in April 2016, when Duterte was still a presidential candidate, Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely commented on his controversial remark regretting that he had not been the first to rape an Australian woman killed in a prison riot.
Gorely, though she did not specifically mention Duterte's remark, had said: "Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialized."
An insulted Duterte then lashed out against the Australian government for supposedly interfering in the national elections.
"Stay out, Australian government, stay out," he had said.
Will Australia's efforts to improve ties be fruitful? One thing's for sure – when it comes to diplomacy, Duterte likes the personal touch. – with a report from Bea Cupin / Rappler.com
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