Ramos says meeting with Chinese officials 'very encouraging'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Former President and current special envoy to Beijing Fidel Ramos described his recent meeting with Chinese officials in Hong Kong as "very encouraging."

Ramos was in Hong Kong from August 8 to 12 to rekindle ties with China which soured over the countries' maritime dispute in the South China Sea. The former president described his role as the "icebreaker" between Manila and Beijing. On July 12, an international tribunal of judges ruled in favor of the Philippines in a case against China’s claims to virtually all of the South China Sea.

Read: FVR 'optimistic' about ice breaking China trip

Ramos met with the media in Camp Aguinaldo on Saturday to recap his Hong Kong visit.

The former president met with National People's Congress Foreign Affairs Committee Chair and former ambassador to the Philippines Fu Ying, and Wu Shicun, President of China's National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

According to Ramos, the Chinese officials he talked to were very hospitable. He said the arbitral tribunal's ruling was not discussed.

"Very hospitable — but beyond that very encouraging in that sense the meron tayong [we have] common interest," the former President said.

He explained these common interests include those stated in the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals such as solving poverty.

Ramos said they discussed fishing, especially about bringing back the status quo to benefit fishermen. This would mean the restoration of fishing rights accorded by tradition – that both China and the Philippines can fish in disputed waters.

"We talked about fishing — ibalik iyong [bring back] fishing (to) a status quo ante... before the conflict we restore fishing according to the rights accorded by tradition."

He said he has yet to report to President Rodrigo Duterte, who is currently in Mindanao. However, he has already briefed cabinet officials concerned with the issue, such as those from the National Security Council and the Foreign Affairs Department. He added that no date has been set so far for his next meeting with Chinese officials.

Even Senior Consultant Rafael Alunan said it's still unclear how the Arbitral Tribunal's ruling will play out in the future talks.

"We do not know yet how they are going to deal with this. But In the statement, one of the things we said we would explore in the future iyong mga [pertains to] human and ecological security options," Alunan explained.

In its July 12 ruling, the five-member Arbitral Tribunal upheld Manila’s position that China’s “nine-dash line” maritime claim is excessive and encroached into the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). From the start, China refused to accept the arbitration and participate in the proceedings.

Ramos served as the country’s President from 1992 to 1996. During the term of his predecessor, the late Cory Aquino, he was the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and later the Secretary of National Defense.