President Rodrigo Duterte is skipping the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which was supposed to be his first international meeting since assuming office on June 30.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Thursday said Duterte decided to skip the two-day summit, starting on Friday, July 15, in Mongolia as he wants to focus on domestic issues in his first days in Malacañang.
“The President wishes to stay close to his countrymen in the first few months of his presidency,” Andanar told reporters in a text message.
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier recommended to Duterte to attend the forum of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and European Union (EU) as well as Japan, China and South Korea.
The summit is expected to tackle the South China Sea conflict and Britain’s recent exit from EU, among other key issues.
ASEM serves as an open forum for policy makers and officials to tackle political, economic and socio-cultural issues of common interest.
From the original 15 EU member-states, seven Asean member-states, plus China, Japan, South Korea and the European Commission in 1996, ASEM has grown to 53 members.