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Alunan could be special envoy to China if FVR turns down Duterte offer

In this photo released on March 31, 2016, senatorial candidate Rafael Alunan III and then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte pose with clenched fists, the campaign gesture of Duterte's camp. Alunan was Interior secretary under President Fidel Ramos. Alunan campaign/Released

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will ask former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan III to become special envoy to China if former President Fidel Ramos declines the offer.

"(Alunan) knows his business," Duterte said in his speech on Friday before troops at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao, which was streamed online.

Ramos said earlier this week that medical issues and other commitments might make him refuse to initiate diplomatic talks with China in the wake of the Philippines' victory in its arbitration case against China. Last week, the tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and based in the Hague ruled that China's nine-dash line claim over the key trade route is baseless.

"What if I conk out (in the middle of my work)? That would paint a poor picture of our nation after all the advance publicity you've made (of me as special envoy)," he said at a media forum in Manila.

Still, Ramos said he will meet with Duterte this weekend to get his "mission orders" as special envoy. Ramos is expected to announce his decision whether to take the job after the meeting.

Alunan surprised

Harvard-educated Alunan, who was defeated in the senatorial race in May, has been outspoken against China's intrusion into Philippine waters in the West Philippine Sea, part of the disputed South China Sea.

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Asked whether he is willing to be a high-level emissary to China, Alunan said he is not yet aware of Duterte's plan.

"That comes as a surprise to me. I have not been advised of it by the [Office of the President]," Alunan said in a message to Philstar.com.

Alunan, who was Interior secretary of Ramos, said the former president is the "best" choice for the position because of his deep knowledge of the culture of China and of the United States.

"Hiningi ko sa kanya kung maari akong maging taga-bitbit ng kanyang briefcase para maka-front row osyoso ako sa ugnayan," Alunan said on Facebook following Duterte's announcement.

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