By Claire Morales True
MANILA/WASHINGTON – The anticipated transition to a new administration has forced outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte to reject the invitation for him to attend the Southeast Asian leaders’ special summit with United States President Joe Biden in Washington DC on May 12-13.
In a televised Talk to the People, Duterte said he would not participate in the meeting between Biden and 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in the US next month because of possible conflict of interest.
The President explained that his successor might be announced during the conduct of the US-Asean summit since the Philippines’ national and local elections will be held on May 9.
So far, the President has not announced who will represent the Philippines in the summit.
Southeast Asian leaders and Biden are expected to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in various areas, including the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response and global health security.
The summit will also pave the way for the Asean and the US to tackle regional and international issues and bolster strategic partnerships for the mutual benefit of their peoples.
In October 2021, Duterte announced his plan to visit the US to personally thank Biden’s administration for their Covid-19 vaccine donation.
“Ang problema kasi (The problem is), the dates are May 11-13. (May) 11-13 ang aming conference. But alam mo kasi, by that time, tapos na ang eleksyon, malalaman na natin kung sino ang bagong president (The conference is scheduled on May 11-13. You know, by that time, we’re done with the elections and the new president will be proclaimed),” he said.
Duterte said it would be unpleasant to join the Asean leaders’ meeting with Biden, considering that he is about to step down from office on June 30.
He added that he might take a stand that is different from the next president, should he attend the US-Asean conference.
“Pangit na tignan kung magpunta ako doon kung alam kong may bagong presidente na (It’s not good to attend if we already have a new president),” Duterte said. “And besides, if it is a working conference, there might be some agreements or commitments that will be made there. And ang mahirap kasi, kung ako ang nandoon (It’s difficult to attend there), I might take a stand that would not be acceptable to the next administration.”
The Asean leaders are set to hold a dialogue with Biden in the US on May 12-13.