President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech during the 2014 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas awarding ceremony at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Friday (December 05). Also in photo are Sec. Imelda Nicolas of the Commission of Filipinos Overseas and Sec. Patricia Licuanan of the Commission on Higher education. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech during the 2014 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas awarding ceremony at the Rizal Ceremonial Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Friday (December 05). Also in photo are Sec. Imelda Nicolas of the Commission of Filipinos Overseas and Sec. Patricia Licuanan of the Commission on Higher education. (MNS photo)

Manila, Philippines | AFP |  – Philippine President Benigno Aquino has cancelled a trip to South Korea for an ASEAN summit this week to deal with the damage caused by Typhoon Hagupit, his spokeswoman said Monday.

Aquino was scheduled to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting from December 11 to 12 but will send chief aide Rene Almendras and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima instead, Abigail Valte said.

The decision was made “to enable the president to focus on actions that need to be taken in light of the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby,” Valte told reporters, referring to the storm by its local name.

Hagupit, the strongest storm to hit the disaster-ravaged country this year has claimed at least 23 lives since smashing into the archipelago on Saturday, bringing winds of 210 kilometres (130 miles) an hour.

It was downgraded to a tropical storm from a typhoon Monday and is not expected to leave the islands until Tuesday.