Duterte to skip ASEAN summit in Jakarta due to COVID-19 concerns

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) -- President Rodrigo Duterte will not attend the meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 24, his spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday, over COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

“I think ‘yung issue lang po talaga is ‘yung could it be face-to-face, or could it be virtual? Marami rin pong mga hindi makakarating na heads of state from ASEAN personally,” Roque said in a Palace media briefing.

[Translation: I think the only issue is could it be face-to-face, or could it be virtual? Several others heads of state from ASEAN will also not be able to attend personally.]

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was designated as Duterte's representative to the leaders' meeting, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. In a statement, it explained the President decided to skip the meeting “to attend pressing domestic concerns” in light of the surge in infections.

"The Philippines strongly supported the convening of the meeting even without the full attendance of all ASEAN leaders,” the DFA said.

“The President, through Secretary Locsin, will convey the Philippines' commitment to ASEAN's collective efforts in addressing threats and challenges to peace and stability in the region,” it added.

ASEAN heads of state will convene to discuss urgent regional matters such as the political crisis in Myanmar. Other discussion points include pandemic recovery efforts, community building measures, the DFA said.

READ: PH to 'strongly support' efforts to resolve Myanmar crisis in ASEAN summit — DFA