President Rodrigo Duterte has invited former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for a discussion on the country’s West Philippine Sea dispute with China.

Duterte, in a taped address aired on Friday, said he wanted to hear the inputs of Enrile, whom he said “was there right at the beginning.”

“We have respectfully invited Senator Enrile to come here kasi hindi man ako puwedeng makalabas na mag-usap. Pakinggan natin siya. Hindi na ako magsalita. Makikinig lang ako sa kanya kasi…he was there right at the beginning,” he said.

“Sa kanya ako makinig kasi sa kanya ako bilib sa utak at pag-intindi nitong problema itong ating West Philippine Sea,” he added.

The 76-year-old president said he respected the intellectual ability of the 97-year-old Enrile.

“I hope that Senator Enrile would accept the invitation to be our guest here, Monday, kasi more or less isa siya sa mga tao na nirerespeto ko talaga both intellectually and lahat na. So iyon na lang ang maiwan ko sa inyo,” Duterte said.

In July 2016, the Philippines won a landmark legal victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which rejected China’s excessive claims in the South China Sea under its nine-dash-line policy based on historical records from the Ming Dynasty.

Since the victory was awarded to the Philippines, Duterte had mostly been mum about the issue.

He asserted it, however, in September 2020 before the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

“The award is now part of international law, beyond compromise and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon,” he said during his first UN address.

“We firmly reject attempts to undermine it,” he added. John Ezekiel J. Hirro