Recently, in his good luck year (meaning age 88), FVR was unexpectedly designated by President Rodrigo Du30 as “Special Envoy” with the mission to “break the ice” between China and the Philippines – whose traditionally friendly relations had turned chilly, if not cold, with the 12 July 2016 ruling (award) by the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration about issues in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea area.
Capably assisting FVR in this delicate assignment were former DILG Secretary Raffy Alunan III, eminent expert on Asian affairs Chito Sta. Romana, millennial think-tanker Yale graduate Sam Ramos-Jones, and Ma’am Ming Ramos – FVR’s best friend, spouse and caregiver.
Hoping for good fortune in the Oriental manner, we chose the date 8 August 2016 (8-8-2×8) to push out first to Hong Kong (China’s Special Administrative Region). On that FVR’s + Ma’am Ming Ramos’ good luck day of 8888, the team’s first job was to try to dialogue perhaps with four dependable assets with links to China’s top leaders in Beijing.
We were fortunate to make initial contact with a good friend of the Philippines – former China Ambassador Madame Fu Ying, now Chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National People’s Congress – through the good offices of a prominent HK-based businessman and golfing partner Wai Sun Ng (a.k.a. William Go), who is also well-known among Manila bankers.
The Final Press Statement. At the outset, in order to satisfy the curiosity of the concerned Philippine and China audiences, allow us to reprint our joint Final Press Statement which was simultaneously released thru multi-media from Beijing, Hong Kong, and Manila at 10:00 AM, 11 August 2016:
10-11 August 2016, Former President and Special Envoy Fidel V. Ramos met in Hong Kong with his old friends – Madame Fu Ying (Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress and former Ambassador to Manila 1998-2000) and Professor Wu Shicun (President, China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies) – in a friendly atmosphere. They discussed, in their private capacity, the way forward in the spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood for peace and cooperation between the two countries.
Their informal discussions focused on the need to engage in further talks to build trust and confidence to reduce tensions to pave the way for overall cooperation for the benefit of both their peoples and the region. They explored possible human and ecological security options and suggestions for the benefit of their peoples, such as:
- encouraging marine preservation;
- avoiding tension and promoting fishing cooperation;
- anti-drug and anti-smuggling cooperation;
- anti-crime and anti-corruption cooperation;
- improving tourism opportunities;
- encouraging trade and investment facilitation; and
- encouraging Track II (think-tank) exchanges on relevant issues.
They expressed the hope to find common ground for mutual benefit, especially for the poverty-stricken sectors of their societies. They stressed that building trust is very important to the long-term beneficial relationship between the Philippines and China.
They value the long history of friendship of the two neighboring countries and the prospect of further cooperation for the sake of future generations.
China has welcomed former President Ramos to come to Beijing as Special Envoy of Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte. Former President Ramos, as an ice-breaker, 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.
They reiterated that they were in Hong Kong in their personal capacity and were pleased with the discussions and looked forward to the beginning of a process of formal discussions, which will be continued in Beijing and Manila and other possible venues.
The above is confirmed by the following in their private capacities (duly signed opposite their respective names): Former President FVR, Madame Fu Ying, Mr. Wu Shicun, Former Secretary Rafael Alunan III, Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana, and Samuel A. Ramos-Jones.
Atmosphere Of Friendship And Mutual Concern. The above exploratory talks was made possible through the good offices of Mr. Wai Sun Ng (a.k.a. William Go), Chairman of the Jibsen Group in Hong Kong and Independent Director of the San Miguel Corporation-Hong Kong. Through him, we were able to contact Madame Fu Ying, incumbent Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, former Vice-Foreign Minister, and former China Ambassador to the Philippines who is well-known to Chairman Bill Go.
Although it entailed much inconvenience and some family sacrifice on her part (since she, her husband and their one daughter were on vacation in a desert in Mongolia), she consented to talk to our team in Hong Kong and she also convinced Dr. Wu Shicun, a member of the Foreign Policy Advisory Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to join our talks. It should be remembered that the month of August is vacation time in China (as well as in the U.S.) and it was not possible to get in touch with other possible Chinese “assets” on short notice.
Dr. Wu Shicun is President of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS) that specializes in research on issues of the South China Sea (SCS) and is active in related academic exchanges. In order to promote SCS studies and improve academic network, the NISCSS Beijing Office was established in January 2013.
After nearly 20 years of exploration and development, the NISCSS has formed a systematic scope of research including the strategy of the SCS; the geopolitics of the SCS, including neighboring countries’ policies on the SCS; international law and the SCS disputes; peaceful settlement of the Spratly Islands dispute; resources development and environmental protection in the SCS; the strategies, institutions and mechanisms for developing the maritime economy and the building of the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century.
Bill Go also provided the conference venue on Victoria Peak, all the inland transportation, delicious Chinese meals, and the services of his household staff which consists exactly 50% Chinese and 50% Filipinos.
Our Consul-General Bernardita Catalla in Hong Kong, likewise, was most supportive and helpful.
In Manila, our primary asset for back channeling is Joseph Lim, incumbent Chairman of the China-Philippines Chamber of Commerce who is close to Ambassador Zhao Jianhua of the PRC Embassy in Manila. We requested Chairman Lim to contact some other friends in China and to prepare his corporate premises in Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province as the possible venue for future friendly talks.
Long-range Strategic Framework. Our Philippine Team found very useful the U.N General Assembly Resolution of 25 September 2015 approved and adhered to by 195 member-nations – China, the Philippines and the U.S. included – as the long-range strategic framework plan for the avoidance of global armed conflict that might lead to World War III.
FVR’s latest book titled, U.N. 2030 – One World, One Community, One Family, which described the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be attained by year 2030, proved to be a handy reference book for all.
Perhaps the most important talking point of our team (accepted and also reiterated by the Chinese team) was:
“The seas should be used to save lives and ensure man’s survivability, and not to kill people or destroy institutions.”
Thus, in expectation of broader and more in-depth talks in the near future between the Philippines and China, FVR’s recommendations to President Duterte are to include, among others, to:
- Expedite the appointment/confirmation of a Philippine Ambassador to the PRC (preferably Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana).
- Continue exploratory talks in Beijing, Manila, Davao City and/or other venues.
- Build on the initial gains, particularly on fishing, tropical fruits, tourism and infrastructure support for China’s Maritime Silk Road programs for the Philippines.
Future Prospects. The bottom-line for all sides is to avoid shooting conflicts, and other violent confrontations in the SCS/WPS that could lead to World War III. Considering the devastating, deadly and catastrophic effects of today’s weapons of mass destruction, global warfare could obliterate planet earth and all of its 7.5 billion inhabitants except those with new pacemakers like FVR’s, whose a heartbeat facilitator is guaranteed for 25 years.
War definitely is not an option!
Neither is Global Warming!