MANILA - Malacañang denied Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte's trip to Japan is a reward to his Cabinet members.
"The Palace does not share the position or remarks of Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel V concerning Cabinet members joining the President in this trip to Japan," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
"It is worth mentioning that Cabinet members were prohibited by the President to campaign for the administration candidates during the last elections. It is therefore sans logic that they can be rewarded when they were disallowed from contributing to the reason or cause for the grant of reward."
Laurel told reporters in Tokyo ahead of Duterte's arrival that the trip may be a reward following the administration's victory during the midterm polls in which 8 of the 12 newly-elected senators were endorsed by the President.
Panelo said the ambassador "may have been either innocently speculating for lack of information or may have been misinformed of the nature of the trip."
He maintained that the President needs his Cabinet members in Japan, where some 25 business agreements will be signed during the trip.
The agreements will bring about around P300-billion worth of investments and will generate at least 80,000 jobs, he added.
Panelo said Japan is the country's second major trading partner and fourth biggest source market in tourism.
"The President therefore needs most of his team players, not only as a sign of respect or giving importance to our long-time ally, but we likewise see the need for a stronger cooperation between our governments," he said.
"This can be achieved by the constant dialogue by our Cabinet members with their counterparts in the Japanese government, who are, in various ways, involved in our country's significant transactions with Japan."
Duterte flew to Japan to attend the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo. He is also set to hold a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
He is accompanied by 16 Cabinet members and some 200 delegates.