Philippines' Duterte 'in the pink of health', ministers say

MANILA (Reuters) - Ministers in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet on Wednesday said he was in good health, after the leader talked about ailments afflicting him and said he might not live to complete his six-year term.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte toasts during a signing ceremony between Cambodia-Philippine at the Prime Minister's office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia December 14, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

Duterte told a gathering of business leaders on Monday that he suffered from back pains, migraines and Buerger’s disease, a cause of blockages in the blood vessels, associated with smoking in his youth.

The 71-year-old president stirred further questions about his health by telling a crowd of a few thousand expatriate Filipinos in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, where he is on a visit, that he might not “be around” until the end of his term.

“He is doing very well,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news briefing in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, however.

“Whatever pains he’s experiencing, is basically, as the doctors would say, ‘Wear and tear’. So nothing to be afraid about, nothing to be concerned about. He’s doing fine.”

Duterte, who will be 77 at the end of his term in 2022, is the oldest person to be elected president in the Philippines since the post-war period.

He missed some events during meetings of the ASEAN grouping of South East Asian nations in Laos in September and last month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru, due to migraine attacks and a bad stomach.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello told the same media briefing he had difficulty keeping pace with Duterte’s schedule, and did not know where the leader got his energy.

“He is super-healthy,” said Bello. “Whatever he is doing, I don’t think somebody who is sick can do that. He must be in the pink of health.”

The officials dismissed a suggestion by a lawmaker for the president’s office to issue a regular bulletin on his health, saying it was not necessary.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Clarence Fernandez