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Palace: No urgency to meet with ex-presidents over West Philippine Sea
In this July 17, 2016 photo, former presidents Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Fidel Ramos and Benigno Aquino III meet with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss policy.
PCOO, File

Palace: No urgency to meet with ex-presidents over West Philippine Sea

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - May 24, 2021 - 7:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — There is no urgency to discuss the West Philippine Sea row with members of the National Security Council (NSC) and former presidents as former senate president Juan Ponce Enrile has expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's handling of the dispute, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte had "toyed" with the idea of convening the NSC but the president also pointed out that nothing was resolved in the previous meetings he attended.  

"But this possibility (was considered) before Senator JPE (Juan Ponce Enrile) shared his views on the (West Philippine Sea). But it seems that after JPE concurred that the President is pursuing the right policy on the West Philippine Sea, there is no urgency to discuss this matter, either with the National Security Council or with the former presidents," Roque said at a press briefing.

"So this is not a done deal. It was something that the president was speculating on, before JPE fully concurred with his policy on the (West Philippine Sea)," he added.

During a meeting of the government's pandemic task force last week, Enrile, who was invited to talk about the maritime row, said the Philippines' approach to China should be "friendly," not "hard, assertive, and aggressive." The former senator also advised Duterte to ignore the critics of his policy on China because the Philippines would lose more if it antagonizes the Asian superpower. Duterte then claimed that his critics have become irrelevant to him after hearing Enrile's views.

Former senator Rodolfo Biazon then urged Congress to pass a resolution calling for the convening of the NSC to arrive at a "clear" position on the maritime row.

Malacañang also rejected Vice President Leni Robredo's suggestion to adopt a multilateral approach to resolve the West Philippine Sea dispute, insisting that Duterte's policy is working.

"The president is the lone architect of foreign policy. It's not true that the bilateral approach to the West Philippine Sea is working," Roque said.

"The term of the president is about to end and yet we have not lost territory to China. We do not have a rift with China. So I beg to disagree (with the vice president). The President’s policy has been working for the past five years," he added.

In 2016, a Hague-based arbitral court voided China's wide-reaching maritime claim in the West Philippine Sea and affirmed the Philippines' sovereign rights over its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. China has refused to recognize the decision, calling it "illegal."

BENIGNO AQUINO III FIDEL RAMOS GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO JOSEPH ESTRADA JUAN PONCE ENRILE RODRIGO DUTERTE SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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