FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos on Monday resigned as the country’s special envoy to China after criticizing President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated tirades against the United States and an apparent tilt towards China.
“The moment the President came back from China from a successful state visit I resigned as special envoy to China because the officials have taken over,” Ramos said in a television interview.
“I’ve done my job to… break the ice and to help restore the ties of goodwill and friendship,” he added.
The Palace, however, said Ramos still had a role to play in Duterte’s talks with China.
“We have not received the resignation. Moreover, it is not true that the former president can no longer have any role in our engagement with China,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a statement.
“His stature and expertise are needed now, more than ever, to follow up and build on what President Duterte accomplished during his recent visit to China,” he added.
Ramos, whom Duterte credits for handing him the presidency, said in a column for a national broadsheet on Oct. 9 that the government was “losing badly” by prioritizing the war on drugs at the expense of issues such as poverty, living costs, foreign investment and jobs—calling it a “huge disappointment and letdown.”
Sources had earlier told the Manila Standard that Duterte canceled Ramos’ China trip after he advised the incumbent President not to push through with the trip to China if they do not comply with certain conditions.
Instead of heeding Ramos’ advice, sources said, Duterte canceled Ramos’ China trip and personally took control of talks with Chinese officials.
A week later, Ramos compared the Philippines under “skipper” Duterte to a leaky and slow-moving ship due to internal strife and disunity.
In a third piece, Ramos urged Duterte to refrain from trying to impress by saying too much.
His fourth and latest column called on Duterte to approve the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and said the President’s diatribes were like “shooting himself in the mouth.”
Earlier, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said that Beijing cannot just take away Manila’s historical rights and the recent victory from the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) against China’s excessive “9-dash line” claim in the South China Sea.
“Maybe not now but when we go to another round of talks we will again assert it,” Esperon said about the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea, after speculation persisted that Duterte had made concessions to the Chinese during his recent state visit to China.
Esperon, however, said it was the President’s sworn duty to defend and protect the country.
Shortly after Duterte’s visit, Malacañang and the Defense department reported that the Chinese Coast Guard was allowing Filipino fishermen to enter the disputed Scarborough Shoal to fish.
The government also reported that warships of the Chinese Navy had already left the shoal, which is just 124 nautical miles off the coast of Masinloc, Zambales.
Esperon said the President’s visit eased tensions between the two countries, which he said was a “win-win” situation.
“It was win-win on both sides, but this is not to say that we have dropped our claim because we have asserted it,” Esperon said.
Esperon also said the President mentioned the UN tribunal’s decision to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Although the two presidents were not able to come up with a resolution on the disputed territories, why allow yourselves to be in that confrontational position when you can talk about economic relations [and] trade relations?” he said.
The Palace on Monday fended off criticism that it did not have a coherent foreign policy.
“If we are saying that we have an independent foreign policy, it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to do business with other countries. This only means that we are not depending on the United States or any other ally to tell us what to do,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said, reacting to criticism from former Philippine ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja, who said the country’s foreign policy was like a pendulum, swinging between the United States and China.
“We have an independent foreign policy. This only means that no one interferes and no one even tells us what to do. It is going to be a foreign policy that is made in the Philippines,” he added.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. had earlier said that the Philippines will honor its treaty obligations and agreements with other countries as long as mutual interests between countries converge.
“Any partnership with any country must be based on convergence of interests. In this regard, the highest form of convergence of interests in international relations is expressed through treaties and conventions. We will respect and abide by all our treaty commitments,” Yasay said in Tokyo.
Yasay added that the Philippines is in the process of enhancing engagements with as many countries as possible in pursuit of an independent foreign policy that serves the needs of the people.
He said the country seeks amity with all nations on the basis of a policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom and cooperation.
The Foreign Affairs department on Monday said it could not confirm reports that Australia and Indonesia plan to conduct joint patrols in the South China Sea.
In a report from Sydney’s Morning Herald, Indonesian Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said he had proposed a “peace patrol” with Australia in the South China Sea to “bring peace” and combat illegal fishing when the two countries’ defense ministers met in Bali last week.
“It’s a joint patrol or coordinated patrol, it’s the same thing,” Ryamizard told reporters.
“There are no intentions to disrupt the relationship [with China]. It is called a peace patrol, it brings peace. It is about protecting fish in each other’s areas.”
DFA spokesman Charles Jose said that he would have to verify the report. With John Paolo Bencito, Sara Susanne Fabunan