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Duterte skipping Asia-Europe meet

President Duterte is not inclined to attend a high-level regional forum in Mongolia this week since he prefers to stay in the country in the first few months in office, Malacañang said yesterday.

The President will instead be represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. in the 11th Asia-Europe Leaders meeting in Mongolia today and tomorrow.

“The President wishes to stay close to his countrymen in the first few months of his presidency,” Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said about Duterte’s decision to skip the ASEM summit.

The ASEM summit could have been the first international venue for the new Philippine leader to highlight the country’s strategy on the peaceful resolution on the conflict in the South China Sea.

Recently, a United Nations-backed arbitration court ruled in favor of the country’s case against China’s aggressive territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea. The Hague, Netherlands-based tribunal said China had no legal basis to claim the disputed islands within its supposed “nine-dash line.”

The Philippine government has welcomed the ruling and started to prepare the “right response” over the sea dispute with China with the help of some experts.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella earlier said the government wants to proceed with caution, restraint, and sobriety in dealing with the issue. Abella said the next course of action would be for the “common good” especially with regard to local fishermen whose livelihood were affected by China’s incursions in their traditional fishing area.

Duterte earlier indicated he prefers to talk rather than go to war with China over the territorial dispute. In his first Cabinet meeting after taking oath last June 30, the President said he would not taunt or flaunt a favorable ruling of the arbitration court. (GENALYN D. KABILING)

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