Obama absent at meeting with business leaders
(The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - United States President Barack Obama’s absence at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Advisory Council (ABAC)’s dialogue with leaders yesterday raised curiosity about his whereabouts.

But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Obama only happened to have a meeting with members of the Pacific Alliance, a Latin-American trade bloc at the same time.  

His absence was obvious because he was the only one missing during the ABAC meeting.

Coloma said Obama’s meeting was also at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City where ABAC leaders were presenting a report related to the APEC’s various agenda.

Some of the leaders present were seen either with their eyes shut or fighting off sleep while listening to Doris Magsaysay-Ho, ABAC chairperson, addressing them.

Noy, Xi exchange greetings

Meanwhile, President Aquino and Chinese President Xi Jinping managed to exchange greetings before the start of the APEC business meeting.

Coloma said Xi was the last to arrive at the leaders’ hall before the start of the dialogue and upon his entry was approached by Aquino.

“Welcome, President Xi! Thank you for coming to Manila and attending the APEC meeting,” Aquino said.

He then gestured for President Xi to join the other leaders while they huddled with other leaders of the member-economies before entering the hall to face the ABAC leaders, Coloma said.

China did not arrange for a bilateral meeting between Xi and Aquino on the side of the APEC summit.

Noy snubs Xi?

On the other hand, reports said Aquino appeared to have ignored Xi while they were on their way to the APEC leaders’ meet at the PICC.

As leaders were walking toward the event, Aquino was seen chatting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

Aquino was at the left of Bachelet while Xi was at her right. The Chinese leader was still smiling even if he had no one to talk to during the red carpet walk.

But Malacañang maintained that Aquino greeted all leaders, including Xi. 

The relationship between the Philippines and China has been strained by the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, a busy sea lane where more than $5 trillion worth of trade passes through every year.

Despite the seemingly awkward moments before the formal opening of the APEC leaders’ meeting, Aquino stressed the need to work together to increase prosperity.

“Working hand-in-hand enables us to better understand the context that we operate in, formulate the right approaches based on the correct understanding of the problems, and thus lay the groundwork for a more resilient future, one that is sustainable, inclusive, and truly fair,” he said during the opening of the APEC business dialogue with leaders. – Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero

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