‘Track 2’ diplomacy with China begins

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A GROUP of retired ambassadors, military officials, businessmen and academics have begun “Track 2” diplomacy with Beijing, with their Chinese counterparts lauding the Duterte administration’s decision to set aside in the meantime an international arbitration ruling favoring the Philippines in the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a statement, the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations said it sent a mission to China for a series of dialogues with their contacts and counterparts on September 13 to 15.

Track 2 diplomacy involves nongovernment, informal and unofficial talks, which the council said was separate from the “Track 1” initiative by the government such as the appointment of former President Fidel Ramos as special envoy to China.

A GROUP of retired ambassadors, military officials, businessmen and academics have begun “Track 2” diplomacy with Beijing, with their Chinese counterparts lauding the Duterte administration’s decision to set aside in the meantime an international arbitration ruling favoring the Philippines in the dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In a statement, the Philippine Council for Foreign Relations said it sent a mission to China for a series of dialogues with their contacts and counterparts on September 13 to 15.

Track 2 diplomacy involves nongovernment, informal and unofficial talks, which the council said was separate from the “Track 1” initiative by the government such as the appointment of former President Fidel Ramos as special envoy to China.

All tracks however will cooperate on “Track 1.5” diplomacy toward the final resolution of the maritime dispute, the council said.

The Filipino delegation was composed of retired ambassadors Jaime Bautista, Jaime Yambao, Alberto Encomienda, Eva Betita and Cristina Ortega of the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation; retired military and police officials Edilberto Adan, Enrique Galang, Rodolfo Tor, Carlos Agustin and Alejandro Flores; business executives Alan Ortiz, George Anghel and Bernardo Benedicto; and Ananda Almase from the academe.
Former Interior secretary Rafael Alunan, a consultant to Ramos, joined the delegation.

‘Isolated incident’
In China, the delegation called on Liu Zhenmin, vice-minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They also called on Ambassador Wu Hailong, president of the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs; Yang Yi, head of the China Institute of Strategic Studies; and Yang Xiuping, secretary general of Asean-China Center.

Vice Minister Liu lauded the initiatives taken by the Duterte administration to seek bilateral talks with China, following the July 12 ruling of the international tribunal on the sea dispute, the council said.

“He downplayed the incident calling it an isolated incident that should not disturb the long-term relations between the two countries,” the group said.

Liu expressed hope that the Philippines would handle the dispute appropriately and get bilateral relations “on-track once again,” the group said.

“Given that relations between the two countries had sunk to its lowest level since it started decades ago, he (Liu) expressed the wish that under the new Philippine dispensation the relations between the two countries will arrive at a new turning point,” the council said.

“[Liu] hoped further that that the Philippines can meet China halfway, handle the dispute appropriately, and place [bilateral]relations back on track through dialogue, consultations and cooperation,” it added.

But Liu warned about “bumps along the road to reconciliation due to vested economic, not to mention third-country interests which may be at work to try to derail the process towards reconciliation,” the statement said.

‘Musjawarah’
The council said Chinese think tanks also lauded the “openness of the new administration to restart bilateral talks, while keeping in the backburner the [tribunal]decision without necessarily giving up the respective claims of both nations.”

The think tanks, the group said, “pointed to the Asian way of crisis management and conflict resolution which begins with friendship trust and confidence,” which can facilitate agreements by softening hard positions.
In contrast, Western methods begin with contracts, the group said.

The council said the “Asian way,” also known as “musjawarah,” was not unknown to Filipinos, citing the old territorial dispute with Malaysia over the Sabah which resulted in both parties setting aside the dispute indefinitely.

This led to the establishment of the Maphilindo, the precursor of Asean, under the Manila Accord of 1962, it said.

The Asean-China Center, the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs were open to academic exchanges, the council said.

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