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MANILA, Philippines – The first National Security Council meeting under the new administration convened on Wednesday with four former Philippine presidents joining incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang Palace as they tackled the South China Sea issue, roadmap for peace and the campaign against illegal drugs.
The meeting, initially dubbed by a Senate leader as an “emergency” meeting, was called to tackle, among others, the issues related to the South China Sea, especially arising after the July 12 UN arbitral tribunal ruling that favored Manila and dashed Beijing’s nine-dash-line delineation and its claimed historic rights.
Duterte was joined Wednesday by former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Benigno Aquino III.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said it was important for the Duterte administration to obtain the inputs of the former presidents regarding current issues confronting the country.
“Support … for our Philippine efforts,” Abella said when asked about the former leaders’ presence at the NSC meeting, adding “at the end of the day, they’re all Presidents of the Philippines. It will be a cooperative venture.”
Prior to the NSC meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a courtesy call to President Duterte.
Kerry pledged $32 million in training and services to the Philippines, mainly for law enforcement.
An invitation for President Duterte to make a state visit to the US was not mentioned but they discussed the maritime dispute in the South China Sea.
Duterte assured Kerry that the foundation of whatever talks the Philippines will engage in with China will begin with the UN arbitral court ruling.
Aside from the former presidents, also in attendance at the NSC meeting were some senators, congressmen and Cabinet members.
Watch this News5 video report by Maricel Halili: