MANILA - China's occupation of Panatag or Scarborough Shoal is like a "dagger to the solar plexus" especially if Beijing builds a military installation there, former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez warned on Thursday.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Golez said the Philippines should reject any offer of incentive from China because it is disadvantageous to the country.
"Security is priceless. If ever they convert Scarborough Shoal into another military installation the same way they did with Mischief Reef, that is a dagger right in our solar plexus. It is very close to our economic zones, Manila Bay, Subic, even our military bases in the area. They could use that to monitor and interdict us in the future," he said.
"It is also our exclusive economic zone. The marine resources there are also priceless. I think that cannot be compared to all this harassment," he added.
Golez revealed that China had offered incentives in exchange for the Philippines dropping its arbitration case against China before an international tribunal.
He said reliable sources told him that China had offered the Philippines a "mutual withdrawal" from the shoal in exchange for Manila dropping the arbitration.
However, he likened the offer to an "intruder in your own backyard asking the owner that they should both leave."
"I said - what kind of an incentive is that? It is our exclusive economic zone. Why should we reciprocate them leaving our own exclusive economic zone? Parang sa Tagalog e pinasok yung bakuran mo tapos sasabihin nung pumasok sa bakuran: 'O sige, aalis ako. Umalis ka din.'
Anong klaseng palitan ng incentive yan?" he asked.
China and the Philippines have been locked in a tense dispute over ownership of the Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, which is 220 km from Zambales.
The Philippine government claims Beijing has effectively gained control of the shoal, while China says the shoal is part of its historical claim to most of the South China Sea including waters near the coasts of its neighbors.
Manila has asserted the shoal falls within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ), giving it the right to exploit the natural resources in this area.
It has pursued legal action by filing a complaint with a UN-backed tribunal challenging the basis of China's large territorial claims.
On Wednesday, a Palace spokesman said the Philippines will go ahead and file its memorial or written arguments before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in a bid to bolster its case against China’s sweeping nine-dash claim over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Golez said the filing of the memorial before ITLOS could be a game-changer especially in the Philippine government's initiative to take the rule of law in settling the dispute.
"The memorial is like, in common legal parlance, is that it is like a pleading, a brief where we have the statement of facts, our history in the area, the basis for our claims and the statement of law why we are saying that legally by international law especially UNCLOS this area is ours and there is no basis for the 9-dash line of China," he said.
He also said China offered a "trade carrot" to the country after Beijing said it had $10 trillion in trade being opened to the world.
He said that in September last year, the Chinese ambassador even mentioned that the Philippines and China should concentrate on trade and set aside the dispute.
"Ang hirap. Sabi nila set aside this dispute...e nandun na sila. It is to their advantage that we keep quiet about this this and we don't know what their plans are. Also about the withdrawal, how can we accept an offer for withdrawal in exchange for us not to file the memorial? If we don't file the memorial, it could resolve into something irreversible. On the other hand, if they withdraw today, they could come back tomorrow," he added.
The former national security adviser noted the Philippines has kept calm about an incident wherein Chinese Coast Guard vessels used water cannon to drive away Filipino fishermen from Panatag Shoal.
President Aquino even noted that the use of water cannon was "inconsistent" since some Filipino fishermen were not being harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard.
"I think we have been keeping calm. The fact that we did not exaggerate the issue. We simply reported the incident and it is our duty to report that because it is the government's duty to protect our fishermen especially poor fishermen, hungry fishermen, thousands of them whose livelihoods for hundreds or maybe thousands of years have been dependent on this fishing area which is well within our exclusive economic zone," he said.
Golez said Filipino fishermen should continue to fish in the area to assert the country's rights over the territory.
He also does not believe that China's attempts to deter Filipino fishermen would lead to deaths.
"I think the fishermen should continue going there. They may be harassed by Chinese surveillance ships but there are a lot of them and I think at this point, China is simply trying to intimidate them and deter them but I don't think anything foolish will be resolved in the death of our fishermen especially well within our exclusive economic zone," he said.
Golez said he also sees the Philippines and the United States finishing negotiations on the planned increase in the presence of US troops before US President Barack Obama visits Manila in April.
He said the deal will not lead to the return of permanent US military bases in the Philippines.
"I think something will culminate before the arrival of President Obama in April. I think that will be good for the country and not only for the US but for our other allies like for example India, Indonesia, Japan and maybe even Vietnam. All of us have a common cause in making sure there is freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, part of it being the West Philippine Sea," he said.