MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has incurred large travel expenses during his first year in power, but his foreign trips have won the country stronger diplomatic ties and billions of dollars in trade and aid pledges, Malacañang said Tuesday.
"Totoo naman na most traveled [president si Duterte]. Totoo rin naman na nagastos ay mahigit P300 million na sa mahigit 21 biyahe. Pero ang mahalaga dito, tingnan natin iyung cost benefit analysis natin, iyung ROI (return on investment)," Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar told radio DZMM.
(It is true that Duterte is the most traveled president. It is also true that the government has spent over P300 million for his 21 foreign trips. But what is important is for us to examine the cost benefit and the ROI.)
A media report earlier said the government spent P386.2 million on Duterte's foreign trips, excluding the cost of his last 4 trips to Cambodia, Hong Kong, China and Russia.
Another report said Duterte had the most number of foreign trips by a President in his first year of office.
Duterte has gone on 21 trips so far, more than double the 8 trips that his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, undertook in his maiden year in Malacañang.
Andanar fended off criticism of the President's travels, saying these allowed Duterte to secure some $35 billion in trade and aid privileges from other countries.
Part of this amount will fund various infrastructure projects, including the Manila-Clark railway, the NAIA-Quezon City subway and the Mindanao Railway Project.
"Kahit umabot iyan (gastos) ng P400 million, kung ang balik naman ay $35 billion, napakalayo po. Napakaganda ng return on investment," Andanar said.
"Iyan ang magsasabi na worth it, worthwhile ang biyahe ng Presidente sa ibang bansa."
(Even if the expenses reach P400 million, if we get $35 billion in return, the return of investment can be considered excellent. That will indicate that the President's travels were worth it, it was worthwhile.)
He added that visiting other countries has allowed Duterte to strengthen his relationship with other world leaders.
"Hindi mo mabibigyan halaga ang relationship na na-build mo sa mga bansang napuntahan mo," said Andanar.
(You cannot put a price tag on the relationships that you have built with the countries you visited.)
The official also welcomed media scrutiny of government's expenses, which he said is supported by the Freedom of Information order that Duterte signed last year.