MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday that he might follow the advice of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile regarding the critics of his policy on the West Philippine Sea.
“Maybe I will just ignore my critics who derail me from my official duties,” Duterte said in his taped briefing, which was attended by Enrile. “I will just say that after talking with Senator Enrile, you guys have become irrelevant to me.”
In reply, Enrile said: “That’s the best thing, Mr. President. Just let them be. After all, you are only responsible for the Filipino people, and you are not responsible to any specific person for your foreign policy. Yours is to protect the interest of the nation and its people in the best way you can.”
Enrile, who was a defense secretary before becoming a senator, also offered this suggestion: “Instead of making China as a foe or irritate China, why don’t we befriend China without surrendering our rights? We will befriend China because we are Orientals. We understand each other.”
Enrile warned against taking a confrontational stance.
“The approach should be friendly — not a hard, assertive, and aggressive approach,” he said, speaking partly in Filipino. “We don’t need a hotheaded approach in this issue because that issue has a great deal to do not only with the economy of the Philippines but also the security of our country, of our countrymen.”