'Two-track' talks for Philippines and China?

MANILA • The Philippines and China have discussed setting up a "two-track" system that would allow them to cooperate in some areas while separately handling "contentious issues" such as their South China Sea territorial dispute, officials in Manila said.

Former president Fidel Ramos, who is serving as a special envoy to China, and former interior secretary Rafael Alunan gave more details yesterday about their meetings with Chinese representatives in Hong Kong last week, including with Ms Fu Ying, chairman of the National People's Congress foreign affairs committee.

Mr Ramos said the talks were "very encouraging".

Mr Alunan said both sides discussed "encouraging track two or think-tank exchanges... where we will be discussing contentious issues", such as the territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

He told reporters: "That would relieve us (of) the burden of discussing contentious issues because we have another group doing that."

Both Mr Ramos and Mr Alunan, however, said the Chinese side merely noted their proposals.

Meanwhile, Mr Ramos said the Philippine Congress must decide whether late dictator Ferdinand Marcos should be buried in a heroes' cemetery. His remarks appeared to contradict the controversial decision of President Rodrigo Duterte, which has sparked a widespread outcry.

Mr Duterte had said Mr Marcos deserved burial in the special cemetery because he was a soldier and a president, regardless of any misdeeds. Mr Marcos ruled the country for 21 years, mostly under martial law. A popular revolt, helped by Mr Ramos, toppled him from power and sent him and his family fleeing into exile in Hawaii, where he died in 1989.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 14, 2016, with the headline ''Two-track' talks for Philippines and China?'. Print Edition | Subscribe