MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte's order banning Cabinet members from traveling to the United States can have "adverse consequences" on the Philippine economy and security, Senate Committee on National Defense and Security chair Panfilo Lacson said Thursday.
The Philippines has been exporting some $10-billion worth of goods annually to the US and enjoys about 52 percent of the total US military support and assistance to the entire Asia-Pacific region, Lacson said in a statement.
"An indefinite travel ban to the United States imposed on all members of the Cabinet could have adverse consequences on our country’s economy and security, not to mention the many employed Filipino immigrants there, especially if the US retaliates to the recent tirades of President Duterte," he said.
"Considering all these, I hope some of the Cabinet members will have the courage and sensibility to speak to the President to reconsider," he said.
On Wednesday, Duterte asked his Cabinet members to defer any trips for the meantime to the US, likening it to a "boycott", in an additional reaction to the cancellation of Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa's US visa. He had earlier ordered the termination of the country's Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.
Dela Rosa is Duterte's longtime ally, dating from the time he was a police officer. He became the chief implementer of Duterte's bloody war on drugs when he assumed the top police post in 2016 through 2018.
The US has not issued any statement explaining the cancellation of Dela Rosa's visa. But it happened after the US senate has passed a resolution that invoked the Global Magnitsky Act, which sanctions human rights violators in other countries, and called for the prohibition of entry of those behind the "wrongful imprisonment" of Sen. Leila De Lima, Duterte's staunch critic.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the boycott was a "sign of displeasure" on the part of the President, who had also signified he is not attending the US-ASEAN Leaders' Summit in the US in March.
Dela Rosa said it is up to the Cabinet members if they will heed Duterte's call.
"Nasa kanila na 'yan. Once they joined this government, it is presumed that they are ready to sink or swim with this government," he said in a text message.
"If they are not ready to sink, then they have an option to quit swimming with this government," he added.
Opposition Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the travel ban should have been imposed instead against Chinese nationals who come from areas affected by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), and intending to visit the Philippines.
"Unahin dapat ang kaligtasan ng taumbayan, hindi ang interes ng iilan sa pagkansela ng isang visa," he said in a statement.