Former President Fidel V. Ramos flew to Hong Kong Monday to “warm up” the country’s relations with China before the start of official talks over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“I am just the icebreaker, to rekindle, to warm up again our good friendly neighborly relations with China and that’s all I have to do. And maybe that’s all I can do. But that is a big enough job as I see it and I’ll do my best,” Ramos told reporters before boarding a Philippine Airlines plane former Interior Secretary Rafael Alunan, Chito Sta. Romana and his wife Ming and a grandson.
Ramos, 88, accepted his appointment by President Rodrigo Duterte as special envoy to China.
“We are happy to undertake this job in addition to our other concerns and I may say that it is also true for former Secretary Alunan and also Sta. Romana, both of whom are not spring chicken anymore,” Ramos said.
“We are going to Hong Kong because that is where our contacts are based and that is the most feasible and quickest venue that would be reached by the friends and assets we are hoping to dialogue with. But since this assignment came at a rather short time, it will also take time to contact these people that we want to talk to about peace, harmony and goodwill between China and the Philippines,” the former leader said.
Ramos however declined to identify the people they will be talking to.
He said Hong Kong will be the launching pad of the formal talks.
“I don’t know at this point but from Hong Kong, that is a very convenient launching pad to reach other places in China,” he told reporters.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed hopes that Ramos will give priority to the plight of Filipino fishermen in his upcoming dialogue with China.
The Chinese Coast Guard had prevented Filipinos from fishing in the resource-rich Panatag (Scarborough) shoal despite the ruling of an international arbitration court that the area is a traditional fishing ground.
“We really need to discuss this issue with China,” Charles Jose, spokesperson of the DFA, said. “This is one of the priority issues that he has to take.”