PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo R. Duterte won’t attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta this weekend so he could attend to “pressing domestic concerns,” according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
He would send the country’s top envoy to the meeting instead, it said in a statement on Thursday.
“The President has decided to remain in the country to attend to pressing domestic concerns in light of the surge in COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) cases,” DFA said.
Mr. Duterte might join the meeting virtually, his spokesperson Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing. “The Philippines strongly supported the convening of the meeting even without the full attendance of all ASEAN leaders,” DFA said.
The meeting would address urgent matters in the region including pandemic recovery efforts, community building programs, Myanmar’s governance crisis, and other regional and international issues, it added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. “will also express the Philippines’ strong support to the initiative of Brunei Darussalam and the secretary-general of ASEAN to use their good offices, in accordance with the ASEAN charter, to visit Myanmar and spearhead ASEAN’s response to the crisis” there.
In February, Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically installed government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, resulting in a massive uprising that triggered a violent crackdown on state dissenters.
More than 500 people in Myanmar have been killed by military forces since the popular revolt began, according to a report by human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
While a number of countries around the world have spoken against military rule in Myanmar, the Philippines and neighboring countries have only given a tepid response to the crisis..
The palace earlier said the crisis in Myanmar was an internal issue that Manila would rather not interfere with. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza