Philippine President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. made a last-minute decision to cancel his trip to Dubai to attend COP28, citing “important developments” in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea as the reason for his decision not to attend the UN Climate Summit.

Marcos was supposed to arrive in UAE on Thursday and, aside from attending COP28, was scheduled to meet the Filipino community at Dubai World Trade Centre on the same day. It would have been the first time in 14 years that a Philippine president will come to meet his kabayan (countrymen) in the UAE.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Alfonso Ver confirmed to Khaleej Times that today's gathering of the Filipino community at Dubai World Trade Centre will push through despite the absence of Marcos.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), Marcos said: “In light of important developments in the hostage situation involving 17 Filipino seafarers in the Red Sea, I have made the decision not to attend COP28 in Dubai tomorrow (Friday)."

“Today (Thursday), I will be convening a meeting to facilitate the dispatch of a high-level delegation to Tehran, Iran, with the aim of providing necessary assistance to our seafarers,” he said.

In his stead, Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, the minister for Environment and Natural Resources, was entrusted to lead the Philippine COP28 delegation.

People’s Survival Fund

Earlier on Wednesday, Marcos announced the release of around Dh36 million budget for the People’s Survival Fund (PSF) for climate change mitigation projects in select Philippine provinces.

Talking about the climate change mitigation fund, Marcos said: "Our planet’s health cannot be sacrificed for short-term gains and therefore it is our obligation to shape a world that our children will inherit with pride.. Let us view the challenges brought about by climate change not as burdens to be carried but opportunities for renewal and advancement. It now is up to us to formulate and put together and to implement and to bring to our local communities the effects of that effort to mitigate and to adapt to climate change.”

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