PRESIDENT DUTERTE with former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacanang. Duterte has tapped Ramos as special envoy to China.
By MELANDREW T. VELASCO
MANILA (PhilAmPress) – Former President Fidel V. Ramos met and discussed with a Chinese Foreign Affairs official the importance of building trust and confidence to reduce tensions amid the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Ramos’ meeting “in a friendly atmosphere” with Madam Fu Ying, chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress and former ambassador to the Philippines, happened during his two-day trip to Hong Kong from Aug. 10 to 11.
Ramos, who is President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s special envoy to China, also met Prof. Wu Shicun, president of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies.
In a press statement, Ramos said he and the Chinese officials discussed, in their private capacity, “the way forward in the spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood for peace and cooperation” between the Philippines and China.
”Their informal discussions focused on the need to engage in discussions to build trust and confidence to reduce tensions to pave the way for overall cooperation for the benefit of both their peoples and the region,” according to the statement.
During the meeting, the three officials also explored possible human and ecological security options and suggestions for the benefit of the people of the two countries.
These options and suggestions include encouraging marine preservation; avoiding tension and promoting fishing cooperation; anti-drug and anti-smuggling cooperation; anti-crime and anti-corruption cooperation; improving tourism opportunities; encouraging trade and investment facilitation and encouraging track II (think tank) exchanges on relevant issues of mutual concern and interest.
In the statement signed by Ramos and the three officials they said they value the long history of friendship of the two neighboring countries and the prospect of further cooperation for the sake of future generations. Other signatories were former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan II, Chito Sta. Romana and Samuel Ramos Jones.
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.
The officials reiterated that they were in the meeting in their personal capacity and “were pleased with the discussions and looked forward to the beginning of a process of formal discussions which will be continued in Beijing and Manila and other possible venues.”
The relationship of the Philippines and China has been affected by the United Nations-backed international arbitral tribunal that ruled in favor of the Philippines in its arbitration case filed against China’s massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea.
China has refused to honor the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants in the WPS include Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.