By Genalyn Kabiling
NONTHABURI, Thailand — President Duterte has ended his visit to Thailand earlier than scheduled after skipping the last two events of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit and related meetings here.
The President was a no-show at the third Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit and the ASEAN closing ceremony on Monday. Duterte was originally scheduled to attend these two activities before heading back home Monday night.
Instead, the President sent Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez to attend the RCEP summit and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to the ASEAN closing session.
The Palace has yet to issue a statement about the President’s sudden change of schedule.
Duterte’s final engagement was his participation to the 22nd ASEAN-Japan summit where he recognized the valuable contribution of the Asian ally to the region’s development.
Prior to the ASEAN-Japan summit, Duterte held bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and tackled plans on sustaining cooperation on defense, infrastructure development, among others.
Duterte also participated in the 14th East Asia Summit, a special lunch on sustainable development with ASEAN leaders and dialogue partners, and the 22nd ASEAN Plus Three summit on Monday.
He and six other ASEAN leaders, however, skipped the ASEAN-US summit and sent their ministers in their stead following the absence of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Duterte has strongly pushed for regional cooperation on economic integration, marine debris prevention, among others, during the ASEAN meetings. He also called for the early conclusion of code of conduct in the South China Sea and proposed free trade deal involving Asia Pacific countries. He also spoke against taking sides in the tension between two giants the United States and China.