DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 July) — Former President Fidel V. Ramos has accepted the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to be the special envoy to China.
“Kaya ko (I can do this!),” the 89-year old Ramos, told reporters at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao on Saturday evening, on his acceptance of the mission to talk with China following the July 12 ruling of a United Nations tribunal favoring the Philippines.
He said he accepted the offer after he was given a medical clearance and his wife allowed him to take on the mission.
“I have three ailments or disabilities. First of all, I only have one kidney in the last 63 years; number 2, I have a serious carotid operation here, which controls the blood flow to the brain; thirdly, I have new pacemaker. Okay lahat (Everything’s okay) with no exception. Kaya masaya kami mag-asawa (My wife and I are happy). She also gave me clearance and of course when I reported this to the President, he was also happy,” he said.
Ramos, a retired general and former Defense Secretary who was elected President for a six-year term (1992 to 1998), arrived in Davao City Saturday morning with National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
He said he requested for a courtesy call and Duterte was “so gracious to give it to me for two hours this afternoon here in Davao City.”
Ramos also met with Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar, and presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
He arrived at the Marco Polo around 12 noon with Paul Dominguez, who was his Presidential Adviser for Mindanao during his term.
He said that the National Security Council (NSC) must convene first to set clearly the country’s position before he would begin the negotiation with the Chinese government.
“Do not jump the gun. There should be (meeting) with the National Security Council first, so that the Philippines’ position can be defined by a group of leaders led by the President himself. In my case, I am not an up-to-date leader anymore but I’m a country leader,” he said.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 12 ruled, among others, that China’s nine-dash line claim and accompanying claims to historic rights have no validity under international law.
In a statement, the Tribunal said that “having found that certain areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines… China had violated the Philippines’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone by (a) interfering with Philippine fishing and petroleum exploration, (b) constructing artificial islands and (c) failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from fishing in the zone.”
The Chinese government refused to honor the ruling.
National Security Council
The NSC is the principal advisory body on the proper coordination and integration of plans and policies affecting national security. It consists of the Council Proper headed by the President and the NSC Secretariat headed by the National Security Adviser.
The Council Proper is a collegial body whose members include former Presidents, some representatives from the Cabinet and Congress “as well other government officials and private citizens who may be invited by the President,” the NSC website said.
The country has four living former Presidents: Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
“All important issues confronting the nation will be discussed and President Duterte will listen to the inputs and suggestions and recommendations of the former presidents and the leaders,” Dureza said.
The Peace adviser said policy direction of the country on the West Philippine Sea must be set, so that Ramos, as special envoy, would be able to articulate effectively the stand of the country.
“We cannot discuss it publicly. Former President Ramos sought guidance from Duterte on the policy positions. This will be worked out, crafted, and presented to him before he would start the actual mission to represent the country in this engagement with China,” Dureza said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews