PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte yesterday skipped another meeting at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore, this time with the regional bloc’s dialogue partner South Korea.
Duterte did not attend the meeting of his fellow Southeast Asian leaders with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, which took place after the chief executive showed up at the ASEAN-China Summit.
The President was also absent from the breakfast meeting of ASEAN leaders with Australia.
He was represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in the meetings with Australia and South Korea.
Malacañang has yet to provide a reason for Duterte’s absence in both meetings.
Later Wednesday, the 10-nation grouping will hold meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
World leaders will also hold discussions on the planned free trade agreement between ASEAN and six other countries.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who was part of the President’s delegation to Singapore, said on Tuesday that negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will conclude by next year.
Launched in 2012, the RCEP would create a free trade agreement among 10 ASEAN members—a market of 600 million people—and with six dialogue partners, creating an even bigger market of 1.3 billion.
The dialogue partners are Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.