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Duterte not feeling well, skips APEC gala dinner

President Rodrigo Duterte arrives at the Lima Convention Center for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Summit in Peru on November 19. KING RODRIGUEZ/Presidential Photo 
LIMA, Peru — President Rodrigo Duterte skipped Sunday’s (Manila time) gala dinner for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders because he was not feeling well, one of his spokespersons said.
 
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. represented Duterte during the dinner, which was hosted by Peru President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
 
“Masama pakiramdam (He was not feeling well),” Andanar said when asked by reporters here why the president had failed to attend the gala dinner, one of the highlights of the APEC summit.
 
The dinner, which started minutes past 7 p.m. Saturday Peru time (minutes past 8 a.m. Sunday Philippine time) would have allowed Duterte to talk to other APEC leaders to discuss possible strengthening of ties.
 
 
Almost all APEC economic leaders, including Duterte’s favorite punching bag United States President Barack Obama, were present during the dinner at the Parque de la Reserva.
 
Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was not able to attend the APEC leaders meeting because his country is still mourning the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. South Korea President Park Geun-hye was also a no-show as she is dealing with a political crisis that stemmed from claims that she allowed a personal friend to interfere with state affairs. 
 
 
There were speculations that Duterte skipped the dinner to avoid Obama, who has been vocal about his concerns over the Philippines’ intensified campaign against illegal drugs. Duterte had responded to Obama’s criticisms by accusing the US president of interfering with the Philippines’ affairs.
 
 
It can be recalled that Duterte intentionally snubbed a dialogue between Obama and leaders of Southeast Asian countries in Laos last September “as a matter of principle.” The president’s statement contradicted his officials’ claim that he failed to attend the event because of a migraine.  
 
Duterte attended the formal welcome ceremony for heads of APEC member economies at the Lima Convention Center Saturday afternoon. During the event, he had an opportunity to talk to Kuczynski and listen to the recommendation of the APEC Business Advisory Council on promoting free trade. He later on joined the general dialogue of APEC leaders with 63 chief executive officers of companies.     
 
Before the APEC welcome ceremony, Duterte held separate bilateral meetings with China President Xi Jinping and Russia president Vladimir Putin at Swissotel Lima.
 
 
Days before leaving for Peru, Duterte said he would rather skip the APEC summit because he hates long travels. The president eventually pushed through with the trip after he was convinced that the event would allow him to explain his policies and plans for the Philippines. 
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