By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
SINGAPORE—President Duterte skipped the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia Informal Breakfast Summit Wednesday morning.
Duterte was the only ASEAN leader who was absent during the first event on the second day of the 33rd Summit of the regional bloc.
The President was represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in the summit. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez was also present during the event.
Malacañang is yet to give a reason for Duterte’s absence in the said event. The President, however, attended the ASEAN-China Summit which was the next event for the day.
This is the second time this year that Duterte skipped an official ASEAN summit with Australia. In March, Duterte was represented by former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano for the special summit in Sydney.
Then-Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained that Duterte decided to skip the regional special summit as “recent developments continue to require the President’s presence” in the Philippines.
Roque also cited Duterte’s desire to attend the Philippine Military Academy graduation on March 18 as Duterte considers it as an opportunity to “have a dialogue with younger military officials.”
During the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Manila last year, Duterte discussed the South China Sea issue with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
In their bilateral meeting, Duterte assured the Prime Minister of the strong relations between the two countries.
“I assure you that the relations between the two countries are strong, as always been, no problem for that. And we continue to cooperate in our alliances,” Duterte told Turnbull last year.
According to Malacañang, other issues discussed by Duterte and Turnbull included he crafting of a binding code of conduct, extremism, illegal drugs as well as trade and commerce.
Turnbull also reportedly praised Duterte for his stance on the South China Sea issue and for how the government handled the recently-concluded war in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur against Daesh-inspired terrorists.