By Genalyn Kabiling
PORT MORESBY — President Duterte is skipping some meetings in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to return home early to address “urgent domestic developments,” his spokesman Salvador Panelo said Saturday.
The President has expressed hope that Papua New Guinea, host of this year’s APEC summit, would understand his decision to cut short his three-day visit and leave the Pacific Island nation by Saturday night.
Based on his new schedule, Duterte will attend the APEC economic leaders’ summit, which opens Saturday, but will skip other activities scheduled on Sunday. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez has been designated represent him in the second day of the annual talks here.
“The Palace wishes to announce that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will participate in today’s APEC-related events, which include, among others, a dialogue before prominent business leaders during the summit of chief executive officers of the APEC Business Advisory Council or ABAC and a meeting with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, capped by a gala dinner in the evening,” Panelo said.
“Urgent domestic developments, however, require the Chief Executive to return to the Philippines after today’s activities. The President will personally convey this imperative decision to his good friend Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’ Neill who we hope will understand the same,” he added.
The Palace later withdrew Panelo’s statement about the President’s APEC activities, informing Manila-based reporters that an “updated” statement was forthcoming.
The President, who arrived in Port Moresby Friday morning, was originally scheduled to attend the APEC economic leaders’ summit on November 17 and 18 to push for closer economic integration in the region amid the digital trade. He was supposed to arrive in Davao City Sunday night.
A revised itinerary showed the President is scheduled to leave Papua New Guinea at 11: 15 p.m Saturday and arrive in Davao City international airport on Sunday 3:15 a.m.
Despite the President’s absence in some APEC events, Panelo assured that the Philippines continues to support the chairmanship of Papua New Guinea.