MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday skipped most of the events on the second day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore, as Malacañang cited the 73-year-old chief executive’s need to rest after dealing with a "punishing schedule."
Duterte missed the ASEAN summits with Australia and South Korea, a working lunch with ASEAN host and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Summit.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President will also skip the gala dinner.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. represented Duterte at the summits he missed.
In between the summits he missed, Duterte managed to attend the ASEAN meetings with China, Russia, and Japan.
The President also had a bilateral meeting with Singapore’s Lee “regarding concerns that are mutually beneficial for the countries that they represent.”
Panelo brushed aside criticism over Duterte’s absence in some of the ASEAN events, saying the President “worked late and had only less than three hours of sleep.”
“It is unfortunate that the first event scheduled today was at 8:30 a.m.” he added, referring to the ASEAN-Australia summit.
Duterte arrived at Singapore’s Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Center, the venue of the summits, at around 9:30 a.m., just in time for the ASEAN-China Summit which was attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Panelo also immediately dismissed talk that Duterte skipped the events because of his health.
“We assure the nation that his aforementioned absence has nothing to do with his physical health and well-being which have been the subject of speculation,” he said. “The President’s constantly punishing work schedule is proof that he is in top physical shape.”
Panelo, nonetheless, admitted that during the ASEAN events Duterte missed, the President “took power naps to catch on sleep.”
Duterte will have a bilateral meeting with Japan’s Abe on Thursday, the last day of the annual summit.
Panelo assured that Duterte will attend the rest of the events on Thursday, namely the ASEAN summits with United States, India, and the “ASEAN Plus Three” countries composed of China, Japan and South Korea, as well as the East Asia Summit Lunch Retreat and Plenary, and the summit’s closing ceremony. - with Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News