By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte will skip the Association Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia special summit next week to attend to domestic affairs, including gracing the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation, Malacañang announced Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano will go instead to demonstrate the country’s support for regional efforts to advance security and inclusive development.
“The President regrets that he will be unable to attend the ASEAN-Australia summit this month. Developments at home continue to require the President’s presence in the Philippines,” Roque said during a Palace news conference.
“One of the occasions the President will be attending will be the graduation of the Philippine Military Academy since he considers this graduation as an opportunity to dialogue with younger military officers, particularly on the manner by which the Philippine government and military will deal with modern-day terrorism,” he added.
The summit, to be attended by leaders of ASEAN and Australia in Sydney on March 17 and 18, aims to deepen economic cooperation as well as tackle regional security. It will be the first time Australia will host a summit with ASEAN leaders in Australia.
Roque said the President still considers the ASEAN-Australia “very important” by designating Cayetano as his “special personal representative.”
“This special designation will help ensure that the Philippines continues to be engaged with ASEAN and Australia in advancing shared interests in the region and moving forward the common agenda for greater security, stability and inclusive and sustainable development in the region,” he said.