MANILA, Philippines – Former interior secretary Rafael Alunan III will be President Rodrigo Duterte's envoy to China if former president Fidel V. Ramos cannot take on the task.
Duterte announced this during a speech on Friday, July 22, in Camp Siongco in Maguindanao.
"Kung magsabi si President Ramos na hindi niya kaya, I will appoint Alunan, 'yung DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government). Mahusay 'yun," said Duterte to soldiers in the camp.
(If President Ramos says he cannot do it, I will appoint Alunan, the DILG Secretary, he's good.)
Duterte had previously asked Ramos to represent him in bilateral talks with China. But Ramos had hinted he might decline, citing his age and other commitments.
"'Yun na lang ang pampalit (He is the substitute), he knows his business," said Duterte about Alunan.
Alunan was interior secretary under the Ramos administration. Before that, he was Ramos' tourism secretary.
He ran for senator in the 2016 national elections and was among the group of senatorial candidates Duterte endorsed. Alunan was often seen at Duterte's sorties and gave speeches before Duterte's arrival.
It will be interesting to see how Alunan fares as Philippine envoy to begin bilateral talks with China when he has participated in protests against China's "bullying" in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
"There’s nothing China is holding on to except the fiction that they own the South China Sea and nobody believes them,” he said in one interview.
A lead convenor of the West Philippine Sea Coalition, he was at the forefront of a 2015 protest “aimed at mobilizing Filipinos in general, and cause-oriented groups in particular, to resist and counter China's continued territorial expansion in the West Philippine Sea.”
In comparison, Ramos, who served as president from 1992 to 1998, is known to favor close ties with China.
Ramos recently said he may accept Duterte's offer if he is in good enough health to carry out the task.
"Basta kung 'di pa ako about to conk out, eh di tatanggapin ko (As long as I'm not about to conk out yet, then I'll accept the task)," said Ramos as quoted in an Interaksyon article.
He also said he needed to consult with his family and get a medical clearance.
Duterte and Ramos are scheduled to meet this weekend to discuss the matter. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.