MANILA, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos will leave for Beijing on Monday to start initial talks with Chinese officials, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported on Sunday.
President Rodrigo Duterte has named Ramos as a special envoy to repair soured ties between China and the Philippines in the wake of Manila's unilateral move to bring the South China Sea dispute to an ad hoc arbitral tribunal. This will be Ramos' first trip to Beijing as the envoy.
China has dismissed a biased ruling issued on July 12 as "null and void with no binding force."
The Chinese government said it stands ready to continue to resolve relevant disputes peacefully through negotiation and consultation with the states directly concerned on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law.
The report said Ramos' office has confirmed the planned trip. The 88-year-old former leader will be accompanied by former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rafael Alunan, journalist Chito Romana and his grandson Sam Jones.
"No other details were disclosed about Ramos' trip to China," it said.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on July 29 that Duterte had asked Ramos to start direct talks with China, giving the former president "principles of wisdom about how to go about the conversation (with China)."
Abella said Duterte wanted Ramos "to start with things they agree on and not necessarily begin from an adversarial or instant position."
The presidential palace has yet to issue a statement on Ramos's scheduled departure for China on Monday.
Aileen Baviera, a professor of Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines familiar with Chinese affairs, said Ramos is "a good person" to deal with the China at this point.
"I don't think (Duterte) will send Ramos to negotiate, just to break the ice I think, to communicate, to signal the general attitude of the Duterte government," she told Xinhua.
"(Ramos) still maintains good high-level connections with the Chinese, and he is not identified with (former President Benigno) Aquino on the (arbitral) issue. In fact, he had been quite critical on some counts. So, as far as his credibility with the Chinese side is concerned I think we have that," Baviera said.
Ramos, who served as the Philippine president from 1992 to 1998, has maintained good relations with China even after stepping down from office.
He was instrumental in the creation of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA), a non-government and non-profit international organization, in 1998, together with other world leaders like former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and former Japan Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa.
Ramos also served as a chairman of the BFA, which was inaugurated in the resort town of Boao, China's southern Hainan province, in February 2001. Since 2002, the BFA has been holding an annual conference to discuss the most pressing issues in the region and the world at large.