Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he is pondering whether he will go through with his upcoming trip to Israel because "it is expensive," the Philippine News Agency reported on Wednesday.
Israeli sources denied the report, saying preparations for Duterte's September visit are being carried out as planned.
In a speech on Tuesday, Duterte said he would send Philippine Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to Israel, ahead of his own visit, to examine the situation of Filipino workers in the country.
>> Duterte is an unwanted guest in Israel | Editorial
"It is expensive. So I’ve been trying to figure out whether I go or not," Duterte was quoted as saying. "I’m going to Israel, why? Because it’s heating up. And there are 28,000 Filipinos there," he said in the same speech. Duterte added that he will also visit Jordan, which he said is home to 48,000 Filipinos.
- This Filipino Migrant Couple Came to Israel for Work, Fell in Love With Judaism and Converted
- Netanyahu Is Welcoming Authoritarians to Israel - Sparking Fierce Debate in the U.S.
- Israeli Human Rights Activists to President Rivlin: Don't Meet Philippines' Duterte
The idea of the Israel visit began to germinate about a year ago. A senior official in the Foreign Ministry told Haaretz that Duterte said he wanted to visit Jerusalem and was given the nod to do so in principle.
The arrival of the controversial president has made waves in Israel. Earlier this August, a group of human rights activists asked President Reuven Rivlin to refrain from meeting Duterte, who they described as "a mass murderer and a person who supports rape, shooting women in their sexual organs and bombing schools."
Since Duterte entered office two years ago, thousands of citizens in his country have been killed by the police ostensibly as part of an operation to root out illegal drug use.
On top of that, Duterte has made controversial statements on numerous occasions, once even comparing himself to Hitler: “Hitler massacred three million Jews... Now there is three million, there’s three million drug addicts. I’d be happy to slaughter them."