Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo is skipping the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Tuesday after he tested positive for COVID-19 last Sunday.
“I wish to inform everyone that I will not be participating in the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this week, as I tested positive for COVID-19 early this weekend,” Manalo announced in his Twitter account.
This is the first time the Asean foreign ministers would have a full in-person ministerial meeting since the pandemic began in 2020, and it would have been Manalo’s first Asean engagement as the country’s top diplomat.
“So it is unfortunate that my absence happens at this important time,” he said.
Aside from meeting his counterparts in Asean, he was scheduled to have bilateral meetings with dialogue partners. Sources told Business Mirror they have to cancel Manalo’s bilateral meetings at the sidelines of the Asean meetings with 14 foreign ministers. Manalo said despite his absence, the Philippine participation in the Asean fora “will not be affected.
”One of his deputies, DFA Undersecretary for Bilateral Relations Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro, will lead the Philippine delegation. Nonetheless, Manalo said he has sent his regrets to his Cambodian counterpart, Park Sokhonn, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and this year’s AMM Chair.
“I will concentrate on recovery so I can go back to working at DFA as soon as possible, and I look forward to the next opportunity to meet with ASEAN colleagues and our Dialogue Partners,” he added.
Image credits: Official Gazette