MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said it will defer to the foreign affairs department on giving details about the impending Israel visit of President Rodrigo Duterte due to its “controversial” nature.
“On Israel, I would defer to Department of Foreign Affairs and I think you know why — the trip itself can be controversial,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Special Assistant to the President Bong Go said on Wednesday that Duterte’s Israel visit will take place in September, although the exact dates are still being finalized by the two countries.
Duterte was supposed to visit Israel in May last year but it was canceled as the government dealt with the Marawi siege.
Duterte’s visit to Israel would come two years after he made a controversial remark where he compared himself to Adolf Hitler and said he would be happy to slaughter 3 million drug addicts like what the Nazi leader did to Jews.
The President apologized for his remarks in a synagogue.
Meanwhile, Roque also confirmed that Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez continues to persuade the President to visit the US. Duterte has a standing invitation to visit the US from President Donald Trump.
Duterte on Wednesday evening cited schedule and his aversion to long flights as reasons why his visit has not taken place yet.
Since assuming power, Duterte has sought to downgrade Manila’s ties with its traditional ally, Washington.
There was a rapprochement of sorts between the two countries, however, when Trump was elected, as he was seen to be not critical of Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.
Duterte once said he would never visit the US.