MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will first determine whether a visit to Europe will benefit the Philippines, his spokesperson said Thursday.
The European Union has invited Duterte to discussions between Asian and European leaders at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in October, EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said Wednesday.
Jessen said an invitation for Duterte to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting from Oct. 18 to 19 was sent to Malacañang on Tuesday.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said Duterte will “follow his own guidelines” in deciding whether to accept the invitation or not.
“There was an invitation but the guidelines will be… we need to be very clear on what benefits the Philippines will get from such a visit. It must not be too expensive,” Roque said in a news conference in India, where the President is attending a summit among Southeast Asian leaders and Indian officials led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Pursuant to those guidelines, the President will make a decision.”
Should the President accept the invitation, Jessen said he hopes Duterte's visit to Europe may give the chief executive a "more positive understanding of the European Union."
Duterte, in his previous speeches, had repeatedly blasted the EU for criticizing his anti-narcotics war and at one point dared its envoys to leave the Philippines.
He said EU members, who have expressed concern over deaths in his drug war, do not understand the magnitude of the country's narcotics problem. Duterte had also lashed out at the bloc for its supposed "interference" in the Philippines’ internal affairs.
The administration has repeatedly explained it does not sanction summary killings or condone police abuses under the campaign.
Duterte has made trips to several countries, bagging billions of dollars worth of aid and trade pledges.
Despite Duterte’s harsh words, the EU, a vital trading partner of the Philippines, recently retained duty-free privileges for most of the Philippines’ exports to EU.
PH FORMALLY REJECTS EU AID
In a related development, the Philippines has also formally rejected at least P383 million (6.1 million euros) in aid from the EU, Jessen said.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the agreement for the EU-Philippine Trade Related Technical Assistance (TRTA) worth 6.1 million euros did not push through due to unresolved issues on its language.
The Philippines last year announced that it would no longer accept new grants from the EU because of its criticism of the crackdown on illegal drugs, adding the aid seem to encroach on the Philippines’ sovereignty because of the supposed conditions attached to it.
“What was being reviewed at the time was this particular aspect on keeping the Philippine sovereignty. Dahil ‘yun naman ang pinaka-critical part of the language eh that must be kept basically,” Lopez said.
“So kung hindi nagkaroon ng agreement doon, hindi naging acceptable 'yung language.”
Roque assured Filipinos that the rejection of the grant will not affect the delivery of services to the public.
“We are doing it as a country. We are providing for the needs of our people. We now have outstanding economic growth and this will enable us to give what our people will need,” Roque said.