DAVAO CITY – (UPDATE) Former President Fidel Ramos said Saturday he accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer to act as special envoy to China after an international court invalidated the Asian giant's vast sea claims in favor of the Philippines.
The 88-year-old is well-experienced in dealing with Beijing, having handled the Philippines’ response to China’s occupation of Mischief Reef during his term in 1995 and singing an impromptu duet with visiting Chinese President Jiang Zemin a year later.
Ramos relayed his decision to Duterte during a two-hour meeting at the Marco Polo Hotel here Saturday evening. He refused to elaborate on his strategy but said he considered himself a "country elder."
The former president said his wife approved of his return to government. He also played down concerns over his health
"I have 3 ailments or disabilities. First of all I have only one kidney. Number 2, I had a serious carotid operation here which means this controls blood flow to the brain. Number 3, I have a new pacemaker. Okay lahat with no exception,” he told reporters.
Duterte said he would pursue a “settlement” with China, even if this would mean setting aside the decision of the United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, as suggested by Ramos.
“Pero sa (South) China Sea, if we can just have a settlement with them despite the arbitral judgment, I think that marami tayong benefits na makuha,” Duterte said in a speech on Friday, after he inspected a power plant in Maguindanao province.
China did not recognize the landmark July 12 decision of the Hague-based court.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, who was at the meeting, said Duterte and Ramos would work out policy guidelines before the former president starts on his new job.
"Malaking weight ‘yon doon sa policy directions that we will take on this issue. Nag-aantay pa si former president Ramos kung ano yung policy directions that we’ will have to pursue," Dureza told reporters.
A meeting between the two leaders after Duterte's State of the Nation Address on Monday was being arranged, he added.