PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said “jet lag” made him skip important APEC Leaders Meeting events in Lima, Peru including the traditional gala dinner and leaders’ traditional group photo.
“Alam mo kung bakit? Jet lag,” Duterte said in an interview before he left Peru. “Hindi naman ano but lightheaded because exactly at that time that’s my sleeping time back home in the Philippines.”
Duterte added: “Talagang ang mata ko hindi ko mapigilan minsan and even as I was listening to the others, magsasara yung mata ko. Sabi ko mag-uwi na lang muna ako.”
Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski tendered the gala dinner Saturday night (Sunday Manila time) at the Parque dela Reserva. It featured cultural dances and Peru‘s top produce, potatoes and asparagus.
Prior to the dinner, Duterte sent word to his Peruvian hosts through Chief Presidential protocol officer Marciano Paynor that he couldn’t make it.
Duterte also skipped the morning session of Sunday, which culminated in the traditional leaders picture-taking.
Instead of wearing the usual traditional clothes of the host country, the leaders of APEC’s 21 member-economies each wore a brown stole shawl made of vicuna wool, also a top product of Peru.
Palace officials said Duterte missed the APEC leaders’ photo shoot after falling ill.
“Wala si Presidente, masama ang pakiramdam,” Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar told Malacanang reporters in his press briefing.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the President started feeling unwell during the dialogue between APEC leaders and Pacific Alliance Presidents on Sunday afternoon.
Reporters however asked if the President skipped the events to avoid interacting with other leaders like US President Barack Obama whom he previously lambasted after the American leader criticized the Philippines’ brutal war on drugs.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. however said “we could not determine the direction of the eyes of both.”
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay represented Duterte in the gala dinner and leaders’ photo shoot.
Before the two events, Duterte secured promises of trade investments from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Before talking about his jet lag, Duterte joked that he skipped both events because he wanted “to promote Yasay’s acting career.”
Duterte arrived in the Peruvian capital close to midnight of Thursday, after a 24-hour flight from Manila with a 2-hour technical stop in Auckland, New Zealand.
Duterte however described the APEC Leaders Meeting as “a productive one, very informative for me being a first timer in this kind of meeting.”
The President said the issues that struck him the most was climate change – mitigation, resilient crops, sharing of technology.
Love Affair with Russia and China
“And Russia, China, and Vietnam were the most eager countries to invite (observers). They are ready to share new technologies on mitigation,” he said even as he talked about his love affair with Russia and China which began after meeting the two leaders separately.
“You know we have become fast friends,” he said of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Mukhang parang matagal na kaming magkakilala and even the way we pat each other’s hand in a handshake.”
Of Putin, the “idol” he was meeting for the first time, Duterte said the Russian leader was so gracious as to invite him four times to visit Russia.
“And maybe [I] will go, but not on a wintry night,” he said. “I can’t stand cold. I cannot do something productive or worthwhile there.”
Putin reportedly said he was reserving a gun for Duterte. Both men are hunting enthusiasts.
Of Chinese leader Xi, Duterte said that he had a wide smile during their talks.