After 'nap-gate', Duterte skips APEC summit dinner

Ayee Macaraig
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's absence from recent diplomatic meetings has sparked criticism

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte passed on a gala dinner at a regional summit in Papua New Guinea, days after skipping key meetings in another gathering of world leaders for a "power nap".

Duterte, who has a well-known disdain for stiff diplomatic gatherings, was a no-show Saturday night, sending his trade minister instead to pose with heads of state donning bright yellow and red Papua New Guinean shirts.

His office had initially announced that the mercurial leader was cutting short his trip to Port Moresby even before the main meetings began but on Sunday he did show up at the convention centre.

"This after I loudly and naggingly insisted he stay just one day. ONE DAY, I stressed," Philippine foreign minister Teodoro Locsin tweeted on Sunday.

The absence of the 73-year-old Duterte at diplomatic gatherings has sparked criticism and speculation of ill health, which his spokesman denied, saying the president merely lacked sleep.

Duterte has said previously that he suffers from daily migraines and ailments including Buerger's disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs, and is usually due to smoking.

On Wednesday, the Philippine leader missed four of the 11 meetings he was slated to attend and a gala dinner in Singapore, which hosted a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders.

Observers have compared him unfavourably with Malaysia's 93-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has consistently attended summit meetings saying it was his "duty" to do so.

Commenting on his absence, Duterte said on Thursday: "What's wrong with my nap?"

Asked about the Papua New Guinea dinner, a Philippine official told AFP Duterte "feels constrained by formalities and finds them unproductive and a slight waste of time".

After hosting a regional meeting in the Philippines last year, an exhausted Duterte joked about cancelling another Manila summit saying, "It's true. It's all the same. Nothing changes".

In Port Moresby, Duterte met with Filipinos on Friday night where he sought to explain his absence from summit meetings.

He cited an invitation from Australia to have an "informal breakfast" in Singapore.

"I told my soldiers why would I attend when first of all, I do not eat breakfast. Second, it was informal," Duterte said.

"What will they feed us there, kangaroo?"