By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

PHOTO: Presidential Photos

President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed intent to meet with the former presidents to discuss the issues concerning the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang disclosed on Thursday. 

Palace spokesman Harry Roque in his press briefing said that President Duterte was looking for an "alternative" to convening the National Security Council (NSC) and one of the options consider is to meet with his predecessors. 

“Wala pa pong date, The President is considering the idea of an alternative to convening the National Security Council. Pero yun po, still in the process of consideration,” he said.

Roque issued the statement after Duterte on Monday met Juan Ponce Enrile, a former defense minister and a former senator, to seek his advice on matters related to the Philippines’ long-standing disputes with China in WPS.

He also made the remarks, after former senator Rodolfo Biazon urged the administration to convene NSC to come up with a “clear and united” stance on the maritime issue. 

Roque, meanwhile, clarified that Duterte's measure to look for alternatives is because no significant resolutions are being reached from the NSC meeting. 

“Ang tingin po niya, ang mga karanasan nga niya sa National Security Council eh walang resolusyon na nangyayari so bakit parang bakit pa,” he said.

On the other hand, Roque denied that Duterte is issuing “confusing” statements on issues surrounding WPS.

“Wala pong confusing sa stand ni Presidente sa West Philippine Sea. Ang hindi po pwedeng mapagkasunduan, isasantabi muna, isusulong ang mga bagay na pwedeng maisulong gaya ng kalakalan at pamumuhunan,” he said.

Roque maintained that the government made a “clear” stance and would uphold the country’s sovereign rights over WPS and would not let any country occupy any of the Philippine territories.

“Pero hinding-hindi tayo mamimigay ng teritoryo at paninindigan at pangangalagaan natin ang pang-nasyonal na soberenya at ang ating sovereign rights,” he added.

In July 2016, Duterte in his first month had already met with former chief executives Benigno Aquino III, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Fidel Ramos, and Joseph Estrada in Malacañang. 

Duterte discussed with the four former presidents and the NSC were the United Nations ruling on the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China and problems on terrorism, drugs, and criminality among others.

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