MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte bared Thursday what former Philippine leaders advised him to do about the country's maritime disputes with China.
Duterte said he is taking the advice of the three other former presidents, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, whom he talked to at the National Security Council (NSC) meeting Wednesday, on how to handle the sea dispute with China.
"We take the advice of the elders. President Arroyo said 'caution.' President Estrada said 'restraint.' Si President Aquino, ganun naman, but he won for us the case. So kaya ako nagsabi, 'Maraming salamat po for giving us the ace card.' It was he who filed. It was upon his instructions," Duterte said.
Duterte also has full trust in Ramos to "navigate" talks with China following the United Nations-backed tribunal's ruling invalidating Beijing's massive claim in the disputed South China Sea.
"Let Ramos navigate," Duterte said before troops in Camp Nakar, Quezon.
Ramos was appointed by Duterte to act as special envoy to China. The 88-year-old former chief executive tapped the assistance of Rafael Alunan, former secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
"Hayaan muna natin sila," said Duterte. "Then maybe, when the final talks are there tapos kaharap na kami, that would be the time na magpaprangkahan na tayo."
"'This is our position. This is what we have. We will not go out of it. So we talk. So what is your position?'"
WAIT AND SEE?
The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), in its ruling issued earlier this month, said China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources within sea areas falling within the so-called "nine-dash line."
The arbitral tribunal also ruled that China, which has been conducting reclamation work in the disputed areas in the South China Sea, has violated the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.
Amid the Philippines' victory in the arbitration case, Duterte has repeatedly called for restraint, stressing that the country cannot go into war with the Asian giant.
China has refused to recognize the decision of the international court, but welcomed Duterte's sending of a special envoy to Beijing.
READ: Duterte on maritime dispute with China: Practice restraint
"Hindi naman sinabing takot pero it is not the correct move. We do not go into a violence fight as a war now... It's simply not correct. We have to maintain the integrity of this Republic," the President said.
"So ako, ano lang din because during my watch, medyo dahan-dahan lang ako diyan. I cannot be precipitate -- ah sige, daanin mo sa init ng ulo -- ah, patay na. Your life is not something that I can just throw away," Duterte told the soldiers in Camp Nakar.