FOR the first time, President Rodrigo Duterte met Wednesday the National Security Council (NSC) to tackle the country's next steps on vital issues, including the ruling of The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea dispute.
The first NSC meeting came after former President Fidel Ramos accepted Duterte's offer to go to China and start the diplomatic dialogue over the tribunal's decision.
Following the international court's ruling that China has no basis to claim rights on the disputed maritime features, the President sought to address the issue in a diplomatic approach.
The NSC is a collegial body chaired by the President and composed of around 35 leader-members from the executive and legislative branches.
Duterte's predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, attended the conference. It was his first time to return to Malacañang after he stepped down from office last June 30.
Former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was put under hospital arrest during Aquino's term, attended the council meeting. Arroyo was released from hospital detention last week after the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder charge against her.
Also present were Ramos, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Vice President Leni Robredo, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, and other leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
In a photo sent by Communications Secretary Martin Andanar to reporters, Ramos and Estrada were seated in between Aquino and Arroyo.
The 35-member council was expected to be given an overview of the “Road Map for Peace and Development” by Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza.
The said peace roadmap, Dureza said, aims to address issues with various radical groups, with an effort to install a federal type of government.
In August, the national government is set to meet with the leaders of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), and National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway to resume the peace talks.
“This (Road Map to Peace) will cover our engagements with the Bangsamoro and the CPP-NPA-NDF, and then, of course, our effort to do closure to the agreements with the other rebel groups like the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the RBB,” Dureza earlier said.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Isidro Lapeña would also give an update on the administration’s intensified campaign against illicit drugs. (Sunnex)