While the growing number of coronavirus cases in the Philippines has turned many Filipinos’ travel plans upside down, President Rodrigo Duterte said there was one thing that could compel him to take a trip to Boracay Island: a swim with Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat.
“Si Berna eh, (sabi niya) wala naman punta. Sabi ko, sige punta ako, pero maligo tayo,” Duterte said in a late night press conference on Monday, March 9, when asked if he still had plans to visit Boracay. (Berna said no one was going. I said I’ll go, but let’s swim.)
Puyat, who was seated just a few places from Duterte, looked to those beside her as chuckles filled the room following the remark.
The Department of Tourism earlier recommended Duterte visit tourist destinations in the country as it anticipated billions of pesos in revenue losses due to the novel coronavirus. (READ: Boracay combats coronavirus impact with discounts)
Duterte had likewise urged Filipinos to “travel with him” around the Philippines as the tourism industry reeled from government-imposed travel bans.
Duterte’s remark is only one among a long list of sexist statements he has issued as president.
Anticipating backlash for his remarks, Duterte brushed aside the idea some would view his comments as sexist.
“Hindi ito bastos. This is not, anong tawag diyan – feminist ano,” he said. (This is not rude. This is not – what do you call it – (anti) feminist.)
Yet Duterte quickly followed this by saying he wanted to swim with Puyat so he could have “something to look at.”
“Sabi ko, alam mo na ‘yung ligo tayo na (I said, you know the kind of swim where) I also have something to look at. If you look at the open sea it’s endless. Mabubulag ka (You’ll go blind). But (if) Berna would sit beside me on a sunset, I will stay,” he said.
Puyat shifted in her seat once more, looking again to those seated near her.
Duterte wants embraces
But the jokes did not stop there.
Later on during the briefing, Duterte said he disagreed with the Presidential Security Group’s (PSG) recent “no-touch” policy between him and the public, saying he wanted embraces and not just handshakes.
“Kalokohan ‘yan,” he said. (That’s a joke.)
Contrary to the PSG’s measures, Duterte added he would not decline invitations to large gatherings and will likewise “shake hands with everybody.”
Duterte said this was his decision as he repeated he was “ready to die” anytime.
“Kung tawagin na ako ng Diyos ngayong oras na ito, pupunta na ako. Tapos na ako. Naging presidente na ako. Mga anak ko, okay na,” he said. (If God calls me at this time, I will go. I’m done. I became president. My children are okay.)
Experts earlier said that older adults with preexisting health conditions were more vulnerable to the coronavirus, particularly those aged over 60 years old. Duterte is 74 and has been reported to have a host of ailments: Buerger’s Disease, Barrett’s Esophagus, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), spinal issues, and migraines. – Rappler.com