Up to Duterte to convene National Security Council

Convening the National Security Council (NSC) is a prerogative of President Rodrigo Duterte and in the meantime, other options in coordinating the country's security efforts are available, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Sunday. Esperon came out with the statement after Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo urged Duterte to convene the security council following recent activities of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). "NSC convening is call of PRRD," he told reporters in a text message, referring to President Duterte.

"We have alternative coordinating mechanisms for security [such as the]Security, Justice, Peace Cabinet Cluster presided by the cluster chairman," Esperon added.

Last week, Robredo urged the Duterte administration to convene the NSC to come up with a response to the situation in the disputed Kalayaan (Spratly) archipelago. She went to the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Quezon City, wherein she was briefed by Armed Forces chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

According to sources, the vice president was briefed on the situation in the West Philippine Sea and internal security operations of the military such as counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency. The briefing came after China installed missile systems on the reefs that belong to the Philippines, including Subi (Zamora) reef, Mischief (Panganiban) reef and Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) reef. Aside from the security, justice and peace cluster, Esperon noted that select cabinet officials would be included in a cluster to be presided by Duterte as part of the NSC's executive committee.

Esperon also said that the National Intelligence Board, which he heads, was part of alternative solutions on the security situation, along with undersecretaries from various government agencies.

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