MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday night received a phone call from US President Donald Trump as the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic continues to affect almost every country and territory across the world.

In a virtual presser on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed that the two leaders discussed bilateral cooperation against Covid-19 but he did not go into details.

“The call came in at 10:10 in the evening. It was initiated by the US government. It lasted for about 18 minutes. It was cordial and it was about bilateral collaboration on Covid-19 but beyond that I have no authority to divulge any further details,” he said.

Roque appealed for understanding from the public for not giving a full account of the conversation, stressing that diplomatic communications are an exception under the Executive Order No. 2 on the Freedom of Information program which mandates public disclosure of all government records involving public interest.

“We have notes and transcripts but even that po hindi pupuwedeng inanunsyo sa publiko. Humihingi po ako ng inyong pag-iintindi (cannot be announced to the public. I am asking for your understanding),” he said.

Roque said he had no knowledge about whether Duterte and Trump discussed the former’s sentiment about the US’ aggressive recruitment of Filipino nurses.

On April 13, Duterte criticized the US for causing problems by luring Filipino nurses to their country instead of relying on their own human resources.

He said that because the US also made it easier for Filipino nurses to apply for a working visa, he was concerned that the Philippines would run out of medical professionals to treat Covid-19.

“Dapat kayo umasa sana sa sariling mga tao ninyo. Eh ngayon kinukuha, kinakaltasan mo ang Pilipinas pagdating ng panahon magkulang, sorry na lang tayo (You should rely on your own people. Now you’re getting them away from the Philippines. If there will be a shortage, we’ll be sorry),” Duterte said in a televised public address.

Over the weekend, Trump said China should face unspecified consequences if it was “knowingly responsible” for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asked to react on the US leader’s pronouncement, Roque said all countries that have violated international obligations under the 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR), a treaty established under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), may be held liable.

However, Roque said Trump has to prove first that China “knowingly” suppressed crucial information about Covid-19.

“Ang issue nga lang po ay pati si Presidente Trump, hindi sigurado kung merong ginawa ang China na magiging isang paglabag sa kaniyang obligasyon sa larangan ng international law. He himself is unsure pero siyempre po kung aakusahan niya ang Tsina na merong paglabag ay kinakailangang siya po magbigay ng pruweba (The issue is even President Trump is unsure if China violated its obligation under international law. He himself is unsure but if he wants to take action against China, he needs to give proof),” he said.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in the US is currently at 755,533, according to data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

To date, the JHU said the disease has killed more than 40,000 people in the US, nearly a quarter of all deaths from Covid-19 across the globe.

In the Philippines, there are a total of 6,250 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country and 409 deaths as of April 19.

Globally, there are more than 2.3 million cases while fatalities reached 164,000. (ia/SovereignPH.com/PNA)

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