Former President Fidel V. Ramos has accepted the offer of President Rodrigo Duterte to head the team that will open bilateral talks with China following the decision of an international tribunal invalidating Beijing’s claim on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Ramos accepted the offer when he met with Duterte at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City Saturday night.
The meeting took place a few days after Duterte named Ramos as the Philippines’ special envoy to China, explaining his post-arbitration predicament that “war is not an option,” and peaceful talks are the way to go.
However, it was not known when the talks will start since the Philippine government had rejected China’s condition that the tribunal’s ruling will not be discussed in the bilateral talks.
In his speech in Maguindanao on Friday, the President said he is considering following Ramos’ suggestion to set aside the court’s ruling when the Philippines talks to China.
“Ramos said that it’s all right if we take out the arbitral judgment from the talks,” Duterte said. “If it’s really the will of the people, especially Congress, maybe this will lead to progress.”
“If we can just have a settlement with them despite the arbitral judgment, I think that we can get many benefits,” he added.
Duterte was referring to possible investments from China that may flow to his home island of Mindanao if Ramos succeeds in repairing the strained ties between the two countries.
“It’s China that has money, not America. America doesn’t have money. So, I really pray that we are able to settle our fundamental [problem], the China Sea,” the President added
The arbitral tribunal had ruled that China has no historic rights over the South China Sea and that it violated the rights of the Philippines with its actions in the disputed waters.
But China rejected the ruling and said that it will push on with its construction works in disputed waters.