Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos left for Hong Kong on Monday for talks with Chinese officials in the capacity of the special envoy of the sitting president. Talks are to center on maritime disputes settlement.
Current President Rodrigo Duterte has named Ramos as his envoy in July in an attempt to fix soured ties between China and the Philippines in the wake of Manila's unilateral move to bring the South China Sea dispute to an ad hoc arbitral tribunal.
China has dismissed a biased arbitral decision issued on July 12 as "null and void with no binding force."
The Chinese government says it stands ready to continue making efforts in resolving relevant disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultation with the states directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law.
This is Ramos' first trip to China as the special envoy. The 88-year-old former leader is accompanied by former Interior and Local Government secretary Rafael Alunan, journalist Chito Romana, and his grandson Sam Jones.
Ramos told a press conference before his departure that his visit is more of a private element with unofficial nature. During the visit, he will meet some old friends and make private conversations. He says that this will be the first step to restart Philippine-Chinese relations.
"I am just the icebreaker to rekindle, to warm up again, our good friendly, neighborly relation to China. That's all that I have to do, and maybe that's all I can do. But that is a big enough job as I said. I'll do my best. However, my initial on the preliminary phase," says Ramos.
But the former president has not disclosed whether he would travel to other Chinese places apart from Hong Kong. He only says anything can happen as Hong Kong is a hub of communication in China.
Ramos has served as the Philippine president from 1992 to 1998 and he has maintained good relations with China even after stepping down from office.
Ramos was instrumental in the creation in 1998 of the Boao Forum for Asia, which is a non-government and non-profit international organization, together with other world leaders like former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke and former Japanese prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa.
Ramos has also served as a chairman of the Boao Forum, which was inaugurated in south China's resort town of Boao in February 2001. Since 2002, the forum has been holding its annual conference to discuss the pressing issues in the region and the world at large.