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Duterte skips ASEAN-UN summit due to full schedule

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte skipped last Monday’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations-United Nations (ASEAN-UN) Summit because of a conflict in schedule, his spokesman said yesterday. 

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte had a full schedule Monday night, including bilateral meetings with Japan, South Korea, India and Russia.  

“The President’s meetings went beyond schedule and to avoid further delay, it was decided that (Foreign Affairs) Secretary (Alan) Cayetano would attend the ASEAN-UN Summit on behalf of President Duterte while the Chief Executive was conducting meetings with other leaders,” Roque said in a statement.

The 9th ASEAN-UN Summit was scheduled at 8:15 p.m., but it started minutes past 11 p.m. Duterte’s bilateral meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev overlapped with the ASEAN-UN meet. 

Duterte has called the UN “stupid” for criticizing the spate of deaths under his brutal war on illegal drugs and has accused the bloc of meddling in the affairs of the Philippines. 

Last year, Duterte threatened to pull the Philippines out of the UN but later clarified he was just joking. 

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In his opening remarks during the ASEAN-UN Summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres mentioned the need to respect human rights in the campaign against terrorism and illicit drugs. 

“The United Nations stands ready to provide technical support to ASEAN and its member countries in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism and to combat transnational crime, including drug trafficking and people trafficking, through policies designed to protect their citizens with effective law enforcement and respect for human rights,” Guterres said. 

In the same summit, Guterres lauded the Philippines for liberating Marawi City from terrorists aligned with the Islamic State. 

He said continued trilateral cooperation among the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia would strengthen regional peace and security.

Guterres also expressed concern over the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, calling it a “potential source of instability in the region, and radicalization.”

“I cannot hide my deep concern with the dramatic movement of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. It is a worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy and a potential source of instability in the region, and radicalization,” the UN chief said. 

“The United Nations welcomes constructive approaches by ASEAN, including the provision of humanitarian aid to Northern Rakhine,” he added.

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