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20 July 2024

After 'nap-gate', Duterte skips APEC summit dinner

Photo: AP


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte passed on a gala dinner at a regional summit in Papua New Guinea, days after skipping key meetings in another gathering of world leaders for a "power nap".

Duterte, who has a well-known disdain for stiff diplomatic gatherings, was a no-show Saturday night, sending his trade minister instead to pose with heads of state donning bright yellow and red Papua New Guinean shirts.

His office had initially announced that the mercurial leader was cutting short his trip to Port Moresby even before the main meetings began but on Sunday he did show up at the convention centre.

Photo: Reuters

"This after I loudly and naggingly insisted he stay just one day. ONE DAY, I stressed," Philippine foreign minister Teodoro Locsin tweeted on Sunday.

The absence of the 73-year-old Duterte at diplomatic gatherings has sparked criticism and speculation of ill health, which his spokesman denied, saying the president merely lacked sleep.

Duterte has said previously that he suffers from daily migraines and ailments including Buerger's disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs, and is usually due to smoking.

On Wednesday, the Philippine leader missed four of the 11 meetings he was slated to attend and a gala dinner in Singapore, which hosted a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders.

Observers have compared him unfavourably with Malaysia's 93-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has consistently attended summit meetings saying it was his "duty" to do so.

Commenting on his absence, Duterte said on Thursday: "What's wrong with my nap?"

Asked about the Papua New Guinea dinner, a Philippine official told AFP Duterte "feels constrained by formalities and finds them unproductive and a slight waste of time".

After hosting a regional meeting in the Philippines last year, an exhausted Duterte joked about cancelling another Manila summit saying, "It's true. It's all the same. Nothing changes".

In Port Moresby, Duterte met with Filipinos on Friday night where he sought to explain his absence from summit meetings.

He cited an invitation from Australia to have an "informal breakfast" in Singapore.

"I told my soldiers why would I attend when first of all, I do not eat breakfast. Second, it was informal," Duterte said.

"What will they feed us there, kangaroo?"

Philippines’ Duterte to cut short APEC trip, officials say

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will cut short his participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea, officials said Friday. He has come under criticism for skipping some regional meetings earlier in Singapore.

Duterte will attend the first of two days of annual meetings of leaders from 21 APEC countries on Saturday in Port Moresby and then fly home later in the day, a Philippine government statement said. It gave no reason for Duterte’s early departure.

Duterte, 73, missed some meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday in Singapore to take “power naps,” according to his spokesman, Salvador Panelo, who added that the president’s heavy workload has caused him to lose sleep.

Duterte flew early Friday to Papua New Guinea, where he delivered a rambling speech to Filipino workers centering on his anti-drug crackdown that has left thousands of suspects dead in the Philippines.

Panelo played down Duterte’s absence and pointed out the non-appearance of U.S. President Donald Trump, who is being represented by Vice President Mike Pence in the meetings in Asia.

“Accusation that the president is lazy or (too) seriously ill to perform his functions as head of state and government just because he had to take power naps in between a few events … and avoid the embarrassment of dozing off during one of the meetings is a product of a witless if not a malicious mind,” Panelo said in a statement.