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Duterte urged by ex-presidents to exercise restraint on West Phl Sea row

President Rodrigo Duterte leads the first meeting of the National Security Council at Malacañang on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. Joining the meeting are the four former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Benigno Aquino III. PPD
LUCENA CITY — Former presidents have advised the Duterte administration to exercise restraint on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) row following the issuance of an international arbitral court ruling that voided China’s expansive territorial claim.
 
President Rodrigo Duterte said he would take the advice of his predecessors and be cautious in handling the issue to avoid placing the lives of soldiers at risk.
 
“President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) said caution. President (Joseph) Estrada said restraint. President (Benigno) Aquino (III) advised the same,” he told soldiers and policemen in Camp Guillermo Nakar here.
 
“During my watch, we will take it a bit slowly… Your life is not something I can just throw away.”
 
Duterte, the four former presidents and other members of the National Security Council (NSC) met last Wednesday to tackle a host of issues including the West Philippine Sea maritime dispute.
 
 
During the meeting, Duterte also thanked Aquino for initiating the case against China.
 
“He (Aquino) won for us the case. I told him ‘thank you very much for giving us the ace card,’” the president said.
 
Duterte stressed the need to maintain the territorial integrity of the Philippines despite his administration’s readiness to talk to China about the dispute. He said former President Fidel Ramos has agreed to act as special envoy of the Philippines to the Chinese government.
 
“Let Ramos navigate... maybe (there will be) final talks and we will face them and that’s the time we will be frank on each other,” Duterte added.
 
“This is our position. This is what we have, we will not go out of it. We will talk,” he added.
 
 
In 2013, the Philippines challenged the legality of China’s territorial claim, calling it excessive and exaggerated. China claims almost 90 percent of the South China Sea but this is being contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
 
 
Early this month, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China’s claim has no legal basis. China, however, has refused to recognize what it described as an “illegal” ruling.
 
Malacañan described last Wednesday’s NSC meeting as “an extraordinary show of good will and unity to discuss defense and security issues facing the nation.” 
 
“The tone was respectful and consultative,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
 
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