Philippines wants to begin South China Sea formal talks with China soon, says Duterte's envoy Ramos


Former Filipino President Fidel Ramos looks on as he issues a statement at the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, on Aug 12, 2016.
Former Filipino President Fidel Ramos looks on as he issues a statement at the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, on Aug 12, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

MANILA - Former president Fidel Ramos said on Friday (Aug 12) the Philippines wants “formal discussions” with China on “issues of mutual concern and interest”, including easing tensions over territorial spats and fishing rights in the South China Sea.

A statement issued by the office of President Rodrigo Duterte said Mr Ramos met with former Chinese deputy foreign minister Fu Ying, now chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National People’s Congress, in Hong Kong.

Mr Ramos, appointed by Mr Duterte as his “special envoy” to China,  “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 statement said.

It added that Mr Ramos and Ms Fu “looked forward to the beginning of a process of formal discussions” in Beijing and Manila.
Among the other topics the two discussed were marine preservation, combatting drug trafficking and smuggling, fighting corruption, tourism, and trade and investment.

Mr Ramos left for Hong Kong on Monday (Aug 8) in what he described as an “icebreaker” meant to pave the way for bilateral talks between Manila and Beijing.

A ruling last month by an international tribunal striking down Beijing’s claims to over two-thirds of the South China Sea was not discussed.

On July 12, a five-man court constituted by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over the South China Sea.

China’s claims are marked with a “nine-dash line” that overlapped with what the Philippines considers its 200-nautical mile “exclusive economic zone”, as well as those of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The court said that line is inconsistent with international law.  

China rejected that decision, and said it would not enter into any negotiations that will bring up that ruling.