MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines must avoid being confrontational and not involve other countries in resolving its territorial disputes with China, a senator and former police chief said Monday.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate's national defense and security committee, told reporters in a forum that seeking the help of other countries in dealing with China would only worsen tensions.
He said China prefers bilateral discussions, based on meetings he had with some officials like China's ambassador in Manila.
"Baka naman puwedeng tayo na lang dalawa ang mag-usap. Huwag tayo mag-involve ng ibang countries dahil gugulo ang usapan," he said.
Lacson pointed out that other countries like the United States and the Philippines' fellow members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have their own interests to protect.
Recently, the Philippines expressed disappointment at the ASEAN's failure to come up with a joint statement on China's activities in the West Philippine Sea during a meeting of foreign ministers in Cambodia.
Cambodia, the chair of the conference and an ally of China, was reported to have blocked efforts to come up with a diplomatic communiqué.
"No country will advance the interests of another country ahead or on top of their own interests. Bringing in a third country or even 10 countries will not do us any good," Lacson said.
The senator also believes that invoking the Philippines' mutual defense treaty with the US should be "a matter of last resort."
He said the US cannot afford to antagonize China all the way because it has big investments there.
What the Philippines can do for now, Lacson said, is study the possibility of a joint exploration of disputed territories with China. Some of these territories, like the Spratlys, are believed to be rich in marine resources and natural gas.
Lacson said the Philippines is not capable of exploring the resources on its own.
"At the moment, we cannot eat sovereignty," he said. "We cannot bargain from a position of weakness. We are very weak right now."