President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said he has decided to ignore those criticizing his foreign policy on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) upon the advice of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
In a special meeting with Enrile and some members of his Cabinet, Duterte said he was convinced that he would rather not “waste his time” explaining his decision to navigate the maritime row “peacefully” to avoid trouble with China.
“Maybe I will just ignore my critics. I would just say well, after talking to Senator Enrile, you guys have become irrelevant to me,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded meeting.
Enrile agreed with Duterte, adding that the President is not responsible to any specific person for his foreign policy.
“Mr. President, critics you’ll always have. If I were you, I’ll not mind them. Just mind history, the Filipino people,” Enrile said.
Duterte said Enrile’s suggestions were “the best advice” he received that night.
“To me you’re the only one that matters. So if you say that I do not waste my time with them, so I will not waste my time with them,” he told Enrile.
He also expressed gratitude upon knowing that Enrile agreed with his stance on issues concerning the WPS.
“It is not to our advantage as the senator has said that we go out and quarrel with China…The senator is one with me. One of the best minds sa ating (in our) generation has agreed with me,” he added.
Prior to Duterte’s declaration to ignore critics, Enrile told him that he would have also pursued the same approach to China’s continued aggression in the disputed waters if he were in the President’s shoes.
Despite the Philippines’ win against China in a 2016 ruling over the South China Sea, Enrile noted that the ruling cannot be implemented.
“Kahit may resolution ang UN, di naman mapapatupad ng UN ang resolusyon nila, wala silang police force (Even if there is a UN resolution, the UN cannot implement its resolution, they don’t have police force),” Enrile said.
Duterte concurred with Enrile, saying the Philippines could not do anything about the ruling because “we are not on the side of might.”
For now, he said talking with China is the best approach to dealing with the sea dispute.
Enrile also noted that the Philippines’ arbitral victory could not be enforced without a strong air force or navy.“Tama ang posture niyo na kausapin ang China. Huwag gagamitin ang emosyon at init ng ulo (Your posture to talk with China is right. Don’t be carried away by emotions or temper),” he said. SOVEREIGNPH