MALACAÑANG hinted at the possibility of President Rodrigo Duterte dropping plans to preside in a meeting with living former Presidents to solicit insights over the continued incursion of China at the West Philippine Sea.
According to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, the President seemed to have been satisfied with the administration’s “correct and working” foreign policy.
It was actually Duterte who sought counsel of former presidents following his refusal to heed calls to convene the National Security Council (NSC), saying that the body has not been effective in resolving issues in the past.
“Mukha namang after JPE (former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile) concurred that the President is pursuing the right policy on the West Philippine Sea, wala naman pong urgency na pag-usapan itong bagay na ito, either with the National Security Council or with the former Presidents,” he said in a press briefing.
“Ang impression ko po, he’s satisfied that his policy on the West Philippine Sea is correct and is working,” he added.
Former senator and military chief Rodolfo Biazon said last week senators must urge Duterte to convene the NSC to clarify his administration’s “confusing” stand on the sea row with China.
The NSC is an advisory body where the President discusses national security and foreign policy matters with relevant advisers and Cabinet officials.
Duterte has refused to press Beijing to obey a 2016 ruling that junked its claims to almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea. He instead pursued loans and investments from the economic superpower.
But Manila’s maritime dispute with Beijing flared again in March after some 200 Chinese boats swarmed the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the waterway.
Interestingly, Roque said that the President “is the lone architect of foreign policy.”
Duterte earlier this May said the Philippine arbitral victory against China was a scrap of “paper” that could be thrown into the wastebasket.
He later said he would not withdraw ships from the West Philippine Sea, even at the expense of friendship with China.