Former President Fidel V. Ramos would be the Philippines' perfect envoy to China to start talks with them after an international tribunal's decision on the West Philippine Sea, a foreign relations expert said on Friday.
Professor Richard Heydarian said apart from Ramos' closeness with President Rodrigo Duterte, Ramos used bilateral and multilateral approaches during his administration with regard to China.
Heydarian, author of the book "Asia's New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for Western Pacific," said Ramos tried to invite back American troops through the Visiting Forces Agreement.
"Opportunistically, China was taking advantage of the power vacuum that was left by the exit of the Americans," he said.
Ramos also initiated the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Heydarian said.
"He realized that the Philippines has to develop its own capability if it wants to have anything that has semblance of independent foreign policy although you can still have the alliance with the US as a back-up option," he said.
"We pushed, under the Ramos administration, for some sort of regional consensus that found its denouement in the 2002 Declaration of Code of Conduct of parties in the South China Sea, which at least cooled down tensions during that time," said Heydarian.
Ramos also held direct talks with the Chinese leadership, effectively improving economic relations.
"I think that was a very deft, that was a very astute strategy to deal with the issue. Yes, we lost Mischief Reef, but the situation could have gone way worse," he said
President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he wants Ramos to "go to China and start the talks" following the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling on the disputed West Philippine Sea.
READ: Duterte wants FVR as special envoy to China
Heydarian said Ramos is one of the respected leaders in Asia, with some comparing him to Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. The Chinese, too, have very high regard for Ramos, he said.
He said Ramos and Duterte are eyeing a tactical shift in dealing with China after the strategies of the Aquino administration caused Beijing to be more aggressive in the last six years.
"The victory at The Hague is a vindication of the legal warfare strategy of the Aquino administration, but looking at the bigger picture, China’s reclamation actually expanded in the last three years," he said.
"Our strategic objective remains the same: we will secure our claims, we will defend our sovereign rights within or exclusive economic zone. What we’re talking about here is temporary, experimental, tactical shift," he said.