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Breaking the Ice in the South China Sea

MANILA – Three months ago, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to the resources in the West Philippine Sea (also known as the South China Sea), and thus that the Philippines has exclusive rights to the territory. China rejected the ruling, and an icy chill overcame the once-friendly bilateral relationship. It is time to bring back some warmth.

Soon after the ruling, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte unexpectedly designated me, at age 88, to be my country’s special envoy to China, with the goal of doing just that. Thanks to Hong Kong bankers (including my personal friend Wai Sun Ng of Jibsen Capital), my first point of contact was Fu Ying, who has served as China’s ambassador to the Philippines and as Deputy Foreign Minister.

I was fortunate to meet Fu, who is now Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress. She not only possesses detailed knowledge of the issues surrounding the South China/West Philippine Sea, but is also well informed about Philippine culture and politics. In our first exploratory meeting, I also made contact with the similarly knowledgeable Wu Shicun, President of China’s National Institute for South China Sea Studies.

The atmosphere at our meeting was friendly. In their private capacities, Wu and Fu openly discussed the need to find a way forward that would ensure enduring peace and closer cooperation between China and the Philippines.