MalacaÑang on Tuesday said it would respect the decision of Belgian Princess Astrid if she canceled her visit to the Philippines next year as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial statement that he would be happy to slaughter three million drug addicts in the country as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had exterminated millions of Jews.
“She has her own standards by which she has to act. Although we have not gotten any formal communication regarding those matters, this is in a sense a matter of speculation. Although we respect her values, we respect her position,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in a news conference.
Abella issued the statement after the newspaper La Libre Belgique quoted Brussels State Secretary for External Trade Cecile Jodogne as saying that a visit to the country would be “difficult” in wake of Duterte’s comment.
“I will ask for the visit to be moved to a different country,” Jodogne said.
Princess Astrid was scheduled to visit the Philippines to learn about the peace process between the government and the communist rebels, an effort that the European Union (EU) supports.
Earlier, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the Belgian royal will head a high-level economic team for investments.
Brussels is the seat of the EU, which has condemned the current wave of alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
Duterte had lashed out at the group’s members, calling them “fools.”
When asked how the allegations will affect the country’s relationship with Belgium and the EU, Abella said,
“The businessmen will come when there is a stable condition, and when there is a competitive environment if it is to their advantage.”
“In other words, we have to deal with the European Union in separate situations. One is the European Parliament, and the other one is business people. As far as we can see, as long as we provide a decent, competitive environment, I believe they will come [to the Philippines],” he added.
In his speech on Friday morning in Davao City, Duterte likened his war on drugs to Hitler’s efforts to exterminate the Jews, and said he was “happy to slaughter” three-million drug addicts.
Duterte also lambasted has left more than 3,000 people dead in three months and raised concerns about a breakdown in the rule of law.