MANILA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo will not attend an annual summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum members in the Philippines because of domestic issues, a Philippine foreign ministry official said on Thursday.
Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and has in recent months been the source of smoke from land-clearing fires that has blanketed much of the region.
An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman in Jakarta confirmed that Widodo would not be attending the Nov. 18-19 summit in Manila but did not elaborate on the domestic issues keeping him at home.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla would be going instead, the Indonesian spokesman said.
Widodo cut short his first official trip to the United States last month to oversee his government’s efforts to combat the fires that have caused school closures, flight cancellations and pollution levels to spike.
“The haze has really crossed borders. So I think that is the one that he’s trying to look into,” said the Philippine official, Laura del Rosario.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also decided not to attend the APEC summit, sending Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place, a Kremlin spokesman said.
Reporting by Manny Mogato; Additional reporting by Arzia Tivany Wargadiredja and Randy Fabi in Jakarta; Writing by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Robert Birsel