Duterte eyes meeting with ex-presidents to discuss West PH Sea issues

Malacañang disclosed that President Duterte was considering meeting with his predecessors to discuss the issues concerning the West Philippine Sea.

File photo of President Duterte meeting former presidents Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Fidel Ramos, and Benigno Aquino III in Malacañang in July 2016. (Presidential Photo)

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after former Senator Rodolfo Biazon called for the convening of the National Security Council (NSC) to come up with a "clear and united" stand on the issue.

In his press briefing on Thursday, Roque said that President Duterte was looking for an alternative to convening the NSC and one of the options was to meet with previous Philippine presidents anew.

"Kung kinakailangan, iniisip niya na imbitahin ang mga dating presidente, ilang mga personalidad para magkaroon ng isang pagpupulong to discuss the issue (If necessary, he is thinking of inviting past presidents, some personalities, to meet and discuss the issue)," he said.

"Wala pa pong date (There's no date yet). The President is considering the idea of an alternative to convening the National Security Council. Pero yun po (But it is), still in the process of consideration," he added.

This would not be the first time President Duterte met with his predecessors. In July 2016, the first month of his administration, he met with former presidents Benigno Aquino III, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joseph Estrada, and Fidel Ramos in Malacañang.

According to the Palace, among the issues that Duterte discussed with the four former presidents and the NSC were the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling on the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, Roque explained that President Duterte was looking for alternatives to an NSC meeting because he thought nothing significant came out from such meeting.

"Ang tingin po niya, ang mga karanasan nga niya sa National Security Council eh walang resolusyon na nangyayari so bakit parang bakit pa (Based on his experience with the NSC, he thinks that no resolutions are being reached. So why still meet them)?" he said.

"Pwede naman po 'yan (This can be done) through informal consultations," he added.

On the other hand, Roque said there was nothing confusing with the country's stand on the West Philippine Sea.

"Wala pong confusing sa stand ni Presidente sa West Philippine Sea. Ang hindi po pwedeng mapagkasunduan, isasantabi muna, isusulong ang mga bagay na pwedeng maisulong gaya ng kalakalan at pamumuhunan (The President's stand on the West Philippine Sea is not confusing. We will set aside our difference and go forward with things we can agree on like trade and investment)," he said.

"Pero hinding-hindi tayo mamimigay ng teritoryo at paninindigan at pangangalagaan natin ang pang-nasyonal na soberenya at ang ating sovereign rights (But we will never give away our territory and we will stand by our national sovereignty and our sovereign rights)," he added.

The issue on the West Philippine Sea resurfaced following the recent incursion of Chinese vessels in the area. On Monday, President Duterte said he will no longer react to his critics and ordered his Cabinet to refrain from talking about the issue with anybody.