Updated @ 1:06 a.m., Sept. 16, 2018
Nope, it’s not a case of officials goofing off while their province braces itself for the onslaught of the strongest typhoon to hit the country this year.
The group of mayors, vice mayors and other officials from Cagayan province went to Malacañang on Friday for a tour that had been “scheduled long before” Typhoon “Ompong” threatened northern Luzon, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said on Saturday.
“It’s a scheduled tour set long before [we learned about] the typhoon,” the Palace official said, adding that aside from touring Malacañang museum, the officials, numbering at least 14, were also expected to voice out their concerns about the province.
Medialdea said the Palace requested the cancellation of the visit on account of “Ompong,” but some of the officials had been in Manila since Thursday.
“I really discouraged [them] but since some were already here, we just went ahead [with the tour],” he said.
The visiting Cagayan officials also assured him that concerns about “Ompong” were being taken care of even while they were in Manila, Medialdea added.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go said he had advised the officials to cancel their visit in Malacañang “three days earlier … as the typhoon was already coming, but they went ahead since the visit had already been scheduled.”
He was in Davao “with the President, monitoring the typhoon,” Go said in a statement, adding that the officials had problems about their province that they wanted to discuss with the President.
Go also denied reports that he invited the officials on the Palace tour.
Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who was with the group, introduced the local officials, Medialdea said. They were supposed to meet with President Duterte and Go but both had flown home to Davao by Friday, the official added.
The Cagayan officials “had a Palace tour, lunch at 11 a.m., and a meeting with [the President] that lasted about 30 minutes,” Medialdea said.
“It [was] more of a Palace visit, after which they discussed their minor concerns in the province,” the executive secretary said, adding that the officials had talked about their governor, Manuel Mamba. “Domestic concerns, rumblings…they don’t see eye to eye [with the governor]. It’s all ‘away-pulitika’ (political differences).”
Medialdea said he advised the politicians to put their concerns in writing to make them “official,” and that he would let the President know about their concerns.
The “worried” Cagayan officials immediately left after the meeting because of the typhoon, he said. —With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Julie M. Aurelio
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