In the wake of criticisms on his West Philippine Sea stance, President Duterte has asked former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to visit Malacañang next week and shed light on the issues related to the territorial conflict with China.
The President, in a televised address, said he has nothing but respect for Enrile, adding he was ready to listen to the views of the former lawmaker. Duterte extended the Palace invitation to the former senator for the next meeting with Cabinet members set on Monday, May 17.
“We have respectfully invited Senator Enrile to come here kasi hindi naman ako puwedeng makalabas na mag-usap. Pakinggan natin siya. Hindi na ako magsalita. Makikinig lang ako sa kanya (since I cannot go out, to talk. Let’s listen to him. I won’t speak. I will listen to him),” Duterte said during a a taped televised address aired on government television Friday.
“He was there right at the beginning, so sa kanya ako makinig, kasi sa kanya ako bilib sa utak at pagintindi nitong problema, itong ating West Philippine Sea (I will listen to him because I believe him, in his intellect and understanding of this problem, the West Philippine Sea),” he added.
Duterte expressed hope that Enrile would accept his invitation to discuss the West Philippine Sea.
“I am sure hopefully, I hope that Senator Enrile would accept the invitation to be our guest here, Monday, kasi, more or less, isa siya sa mga tao na nirerespeto ko talaga both intellectually and… (he’s one of the persons I respect both intellectually and…),” he said.
Enrile recently issued a statement backing the Duterte administration’s peaceful approach to resolve the territorial conflict with China. The former senator lauded the President’s move to address the matter peacefully instead of becoming antagonistic.
President Duterte has been under fire for alleged soft approach towards China in the country’s unresolved dispute in the West Philippine Sea. The President has ruled out going to war with China over the territorial row while recognizing that the country has a huge debt of gratitude to its “good friend” China. He promised though that he would not compromise the country’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea despite China’s assistance to the Philippines, including the coronavirus vaccines.