Duterte cap on travels for gov’t execs: Only 12
TAGUM CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte is not yet done with jet-setting government officials and set his sights on officials who travel abroad for the flimsiest of reasons.
“It’s corruption,” the President said in a speech during Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s birthday celebration here on Friday evening.
“Those guys who have been wasting money, going in and out of the country as if they owned the money and for nothing,” he said.
Mr. Duterte had earlier fired Maritime Industry Authority chief Marcial Amaro for going on 24 foreign trips in one and a half years in office.
Amaro was sacked shortly after Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor chief Terry Ridon was also terminated over seven foreign trips.
Duterte said it was understandable for Cabinet members and the foreign service officers who frequently travel on official business.
Military officers also have to pursue continuing schooling abroad, the President said.
But most of the requests for foreign travel that he had seen were for “convocations, conventions, powwows and seminars” and “almost every conference was about climate change,” he said.
“Almost every conference is about climate change. So many people want to attend. Climate change, climate change, climate change,” he said.
Henceforth, Mr. Duterte said, the ban on foreign travels will be “part of the campaign against corruption.”
Time to go
“And for those who have traveled more than 12 [times], you have to go,” he said, adding that he was not impressed by frequent travelers and he would fire jet-setting officials if they didn’t leave on their own.
But he clarified that the order applies only to the executive department, including local governments, but excluding Congress and the Judiciary.
For those who really have to travel have to “let me know first. I need to know what you are after,” adding that he knows of cases where officials enlist for events but do not really attend.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol defended his frequent foreign travels although Mr. Duterte had already made an exemption for Cabinet members.
“The Department of Agriculture [can] be considered as the department with most travels because we have international commitments,” Piñol said in Zamboanga City.
He cited as an example his last trip to Argentina and Brazil where he had to attend negotiations for World Trade Organization agreements.
Needled about the number of trips he has taken since becoming agriculture secretary, Piñol said he had lost track.
“I cannot count them all. Maybe less than 20, because if it’s more than 20 [that would] mean I travel every month,” he said. —Reports from Leila Salaverria, Frinston Lim, Allan Nawal and Julie Alipala
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