MANILA - The Philippines has not yet received a formal invitation for President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the United States, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said Thursday.
Bolivar said there has to be a formal invitation for the Philippine side to assess if Duterte is going, given recent statements by the US on its relations with the country.
After Manila hosted a summit of Southeast Asian nations last month, US President Donald Trump invited Duterte to the White House during a "friendly" phone call--the second conversation they had in a span of months-- where North Korea was primarily discussed.
Trump invited Duterte to the White House "to discuss the importance of the United States-Philippines alliance, which is now heading in a very positive direction," the US Office of the Press Secretary said in a statement.
The White House said Trump and Duterte also "discussed the fact that the Philippine government is fighting very hard to rid its country of drugs, a scourge that affects many countries throughout the world."
Duterte, however, said days after that he has yet to accept Trump's invitation, as he "cannot make any definite promise" because he is scheduled to go to other countries as well.
Several world leaders, including Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, criticized the Duterte administration for alleged human rights violations in its anti-narcotics drive, and the firebrand chief executive lashed back at them, often dropping curses in the process.
Ties between Manila and Washington thawed when the former real estate mogul came to power. Trump has not directly criticized Duterte's controversial campaign but the US State Department under his administration recently described the drug-related killings in the Philippines as "troubling."- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News