By Genalyn Kabiling
PORT MORESBY — Instead of flying home Saturday night as planned, President Duterte President joined Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and other Pacific Rim leaders for another round of summit talks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Haus Sunday.
The President abandoned an earlier plan to cut short his three-day visit to Papua New Guinea, reverting to his original schedule to participate in the summit this weekend.
The President attended the remaining APEC activities, including the leaders’ dialogue with the International Monetary Fund and the APEC leaders’ retreat session, before returning to the Philippines Sunday night.
IMF managing director Christine Lagarde was expected to present the outlook on the state of regional and global economy during the dialogue. APEC leaders sought to agree to promote balanced, inclusive and sustainable growth and advance APEC’s work on structural reform in the region.
The APEC leaders were also scheduled to hold Sunday a retreat session on “Connecting for Inclusive Growth through Digital Future” before wrapping up the two-day summit.
Early in the day, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol and Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Bienvenido Tejano have confirmed that the President was still in Port Moresby and was expected to participate in the second day of the APEC summit as originally scheduled.
“Nandito pa (He’s still here],” Piñol said in an interview with Manila-based reporters at the Philippines-New Guinea rice plantation here Sunday morning.
Tejano said the President didn’t proceed with his flight back home Saturday night and opted to stay another night to participate in the remainder of the APEC activities.
“Hindi naman umuwi kagabi (He didn’t fly home Saturday night). He wants to attend the meeting,” Tejano said in another media interview. “Nagustuhan niya yung mga meeting dito (He liked the meetings here),” he added.
Tejano said the President would return to the country after participating in the APEC summit talks Sunday.
Explaining Duterte’s absence in the APEC gala dinner Saturday night, the ambassador said the President probably wanted to rest amid a gruelling work schedule.
“Syempre kailangan din niya magpahinga. Tuloy-tuloy yung ano niya galing pa sa Singapore (Of course he also needed to rest. His schedule has been nonstop since he came from Singapore),” he said.
“Ako man nagrereceive lang dito halos lumugmok na ako. E siya meeting ng meeting. Ako rin mismo magsabi, Sir kaunting pahinga (Even I who received him here, am exhausted.
He’s been holding meetings after meetings. I even told him last night, ‘Sir you should take some rest’),” he added.
The Palace earlier announced the President was cutting short his three-day visit to Papua New Guinea and fly home early. He was supposed to leave Port Moresby Saturday night and skip some APEC activities scheduled Sunday. He was expected to arrive in Davao Sunday morning.
In his original schedule, the President was supposed to attend the regional summit on November 17 and 18 and return to the country Sunday evening. The Palace has yet to explain the latest decision to revert to the President’s original schedule for APEC.
PORT MORESBY – The Philippines has appealed to the United States and China to return to the negotiating table to resolve trade war, saying such dispute would not produce any winner.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the country does not take side with anyone but expressed hope its two trading partners would agree on new terms to avert an escalation of the conflict.
“Nobody wins in a trade war and that ideally both will go back to the negotiating table and settle the differences and agree on new trade terms that would be mutually beneficial to the two countries,” Lopez said during a press conference on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea.
“Everybody in the world would like to see this end obviously and mag-usap na sila,” he said.
“Kung meron silang mga particular concerns, they should settle it. Hopefully soon, sooner than later,” he added.
Lopez stressed that the Philippines was a “friend” to both the US and China, citing the robust trade relations with the two countries. But he maintained that the Philippines continue to support efforts to promote free trade and a rules-based multilateral system and combat trade protectionism policies.
“Frankly, we don’t have to side with anyone but we… May merit ‘yung both arguments,” he said. “You know ang Pilipinas kasi of course those are two big economies and again we are a friend to both,” he added.
Lopez said the country was not affected “in a major way” by the escalating economic tension between the United States and China.
He said the Philippines, a “small economy,” actually continues to enjoy better market access to both countries.
The world’s two largest economies have been locked in an escalating trade battle, slapping more tariffs on their respective goods. The trade conflict showed no sign of abating as the two nations stood firm on their positions during the APEC summit here.
Finance Secretary Ramon Lopez said it was a good thing President Duterte decided to proceed with his trip to Papua New Guinea and stay for the remaining of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit there.
In a press briefing in Port Moresby, Lopez said he had no idea that Duterte was planning to cut short his trip until it was reported by the media.
“Hindi ko rin alam, eh (I also don’t know). It’s the decision of the President. Unang-una, hindi ko alam ‘yung nareport na maaga siya uuwi (First of all I didn’t know about the reports that he was supposed to go home),” he said.
“Tama lang na nag-stay nga siya. So hindi ko alam kung ano ‘yun, hindi ko alam kung ano’ng nangyari doon (But it’s right that he stayed. I don’t know what happened there),” he added.
Malacañang earlier explained that Duterte’s absence to some events during the previous ASEAN Summit was not because of his health, which has been the subject of many speculations since the beginning of his presidency.