China ‘open to dialogue’ with Philippines: foreign ministry

Comments come as China gives its blessing to fence-mending mission of ex-Philippine president Fidel Ramos

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 3:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 10:56pm

China is open to engaging in dialogue with the Philippines through various means, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday as former Philippine president Fidel Ramos spent his third day in Hong Kong trying to mend fences with Beijing.

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In a statement, ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China would welcome Ramos to visit China as a special envoy to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“China and the Philippines are traditionally good neighbours. Both nations should make joint efforts to improve bilateral ties and resume dialogue to ensure Sino-Philippine relations are on a healthy and stable track,” she said.

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“Ramos will meet old friends privately in Hong Kong. And China is open to dialogue conducted through various channels between the two countries.”

Ramos had said on Tuesday that while in Hong Kong he would meet several friends with links to President Xi Jinping, as well as successful businessmen with interests in the Philippines.

While the full details of his itinerary or whom he planned to meet were still unclear, Ramos specifically said he would talk to Wu Shicun, the president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies think tank in Hainan.

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Wu gained attention in May in the lead-up to the ruling when he and former deputy foreign minister Fu Ying made China’s case in an article in US magazine The National Interest.

Ramos also said earlier that he would seek to improve economic and tourism links by, for example, promoting joint use of the fishing ground around the Scar­borough Shoal.

Ramos arrived in Hong Kong on Monday on a mission to fix frayed ties with Beijing after an international tribunal rejected Beijing’s claims over much of the disputed South China Sea last month. Beijing was infuriated and said it would ignore the ruling.

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Hong Kong was seen by observers as neutral ground for both sides to test the waters. If Ramos’ trip failed to bring positive results, he could return to Manila without causing much embarrassment to either side, they said.