Philippines invites China to 'formal discussions'

MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos, special envoy of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, invited China to "formal discussions" after Beijing lost in a case filed by Manila over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Ramos extended this invitation during his informal talks in Hong Kong with former Chinese ambassador to Manila Fu Ying and Professor Wu Shicun, president of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

Ramos, Fu, and Wu issued a joint statement on Friday, August 12, about their meeting from Wednesday to Thursday, August 10 to 11.

"Former President Ramos, as an ice breaker, expressed the Philippine government’s desire to hold formal discussions with the Chinese government on issues of mutual concern and interest at the appropriate time to explore pathways to peace and cooperation," said Ramos, Fu, and Wu in their joint statement. 

They also said, "China has welcomed former President Ramos to come to Beijing as special envoy of Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte."

Ramos, Fu, and Wu said they held discussions from Wednesday to Thursday "in a friendly atmosphere." The 3 of them discussed, in their private capacity, "the way forward in the spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood for peace and cooperation."

"They expressed the hope to find common ground for mutual benefit, especially for the poverty-stricken sectors of their societies," their statement said.

Talks eyed in Manila, Beijing

They said possible points of cooperation include the following:

Ramos, Wu, and Fu "stressed that building trust is very important to the long-term beneficial relationship between the Philippines and China." They also said they "value the long history of friendship" between the two countries.

The 3 of them said they "looked forward to the beginning of a process of formal discussions which will be continued in Beijing and Manila and other possible venues."

Their statement was also signed by former Philippine interior secretary Rafael Alunan III and Filipino journalist Chito Sta. Romana.

Alunan was eyed as envoy to China if Ramos refused the position, while Sta. Romana was the former Beijing bureau chief of the US news group ABC News.

Ramos earlier said he is "just the icebreaker to rekindle, to warm up again our good, friendly, neighborly relations with China."

The talks in Hong Kong come after the Philippines won a historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea. Duterte refuses to "flaunt" this ruling as he aims to boost ties with Beijing for practical reasons, including China’s offer to build a railway in two years. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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