Cayetano skips Day 2 of Asean meet
Alan Peter Cayetano has felt a bit under the weather and “almost lost his voice” in his first major regional meeting as Philippine foreign secretary.
Cayetano called in sick on Sunday to skip the second day of the three-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) meetings, when the 10 Asean foreign ministers were to hold a dialogue with each of their counterparts from 10 nations, including the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.
The 46-year old Cayetano, who is attending his first Asean meeting, sent word to his counterparts from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos that he was “not feeling well.”
Senior Undersecretary Enrique Manalo, who served as acting foreign secretary for a few months before Cayetano assumed the post in May, represented the Philippines in the dialogue, having overseen the preparatory meetings.
“He was not feeling well since the beginning of the week, and then after yesterday he almost lost his voice,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson (DFA) Robespierre Bolivar said on Sunday.
Bolivar added that Cayetano was “recuperating” so he could chair the Asean meeting with China, Japan and South Korea (Asean Plus Three), the East Asia Summit and the 27-nation Asean Regional Forum today.
Cayetano and the other Asean foreign ministers stayed up late for an impromptu huddle following the welcome dinner on Friday.
During that informal meeting, some foreign ministers reportedly tried to change the draft joint communique to reflect a stronger stance against China’s aggression in the South China Sea and against North Korea’s nuclear missiles program.
At the start of their plenary session on Saturday, Cayetano alluded to the tough negotiation talks the night before.
“You have to excuse my voice, as my colleagues, we kept each other up until almost midnight last night. In the true Asean way, we were able to passionately argue our national interest but at the same time put first our regional interest and come out as friends who have found solutions to very sensitive problems,” he said, going off-script.
On Sunday, Asean foreign ministers held a dialogue with the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, United States, European Union and India.
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