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THE recent move of President Rodrigo Duterte to convene living former Philippine Presidents raised eyebrows of dissenters who find it awkward for the administration to spend so much time and effort in forming an alliance concealed under the guise of council of elders.

According to Malacañang, the issue hounding the continuing incursion of China at the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is something that does not need the National Security Council (NSC), adding that it has not been very effective in addressing concerns brought to its attention.

In throwing out the proposal of incumbent and former senators, who underscored the need to convene the NSC to tackle the brewing West Philippine Sea issue amid increasing incidents of China’s intrusions in Philippine territory, President Duterte instead insisted that he would rather invite former presidents of the country to a meeting on the issues in WPS.

Who are the living former Philippine Presidents who would accept the invitation? Let’s give a run down on the four former Malacanang chief executives — former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Cojuangco Aquino III.

Ramos remains sharp and may somehow be able to share some good insights. However, he may not be able to come because old age seemed catching up on him. He has become bed-ridden, according to the most recent report on his condition. He is 93 years old.

Estrada, for his part, is still recuperating from his respiratory ailment, after a tough battle with COVID-19 last month. And from how it looks, he may not be able to come, too. He is 84 years old.

The 74-year old Arroyo is the only former Philippine President who is likely to show up because she is Duterte’s Presidential Adviser on Clark Programs and Projects.

Aquino? I sincerely doubt if the President is keen on the idea of meeting his nemesis.

From how it looks, the council of elders that is being mothballed by the administration is no more than a PR stunt designed to calm down the public which has openly and vocally expressed disappointment over the manner in which the administration has handled – or should I say, mishandled, the WPS issue.

It is high time that the government comes up with a clear and united stand on the West Philippine Sea issue. Convening of the National Security Council ASAP would be a timely intervention.

We cannot be divided as a nation when we talk about our sovereignty. Protecting territorial integrity is so vital to a country’s survival that we must not confuse it with friendship or “utang na loob.

This is the country’s resources we are talking about. There shouldn’t be any debate as to whether we should protect it or not. There is only one constitutional answer—we should. The only thing left for us to discuss now is how.

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