'NO PRICE TAG FOR NATIONAL SECURITY'
MANILA - A security analyst on Wednesday warned the Philippine government about the possible repercussions of giving China a "full headlong embrace."
Warmer ties between the Philippines and China amid unresolved territorial disputes was on display recently as President Duterte attended China's Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.
Former Magdalo Representative Ashley Acedillo said the administration should always be wary in dealing with China, an emerging power, even if it gives the Philippines short-term economic benefits.
"I have always cautioned against a full headlong embrace of China. There are certain things we need to be wary of because, as demonstrated by China's relations to other countries, it has not been totally generous," said Acedillo, a former Air Force lieutenant.
Acedillo believes the government is brushing aside risks because of "economic and political gains." But while they may be good, he said the government should also look at the long-term effects of its dealings with China.
"What happens in the long term? I'm more concerned because we should deal with both short- and long-term implications. There is no price tag for national security," he said.
On the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum over the weekend, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the government was planning to procure defense equipment from China.
He said the Philippines would be sending a technical working group to Beijing to see what the military needs.
The Philippines and China is also set hold their first meeting on the West Philippine Sea dispute on Friday.
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana revealed that both sides have agreed to hold the meetings at least twice a year.
'CHINA WANTS SULU SEA ACCESS'
Acedillo also warned the Philippine government of possible repercussions in holding joint military drills with China, as Duterte had already expressed openness to the idea.
Duterte made the comment on the joint military exercise with China following his visit to a Chinese warship docked in his hometown, Davao City.
He has also previously expressed openness to joint military training with Russia.
He said giving China broader access to the Sulu Sea would be more beneficial to them than to the Philippines.
"I can only interpret this as a part of a broad strategy of China to control the sea lanes of communication leading up to the South China Sea," he said.
He pointed out that the Philippines was "right in the smack" of an area of strategic importance for countries who want control of the two critical bodies of water - the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
"Sulu Sea is the primary access if your coming from the south, leading up to China. If you have to pass through the South China Sea, Sulu Sea your main access," he added.
Acedillo said it would have made more sense to him if it was a multilateral arrangement between the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and the US, as these states were all fighting terrorism.
"It will be more to China's interest to be able to roam and have access to the Sulu Sea where they don't have access previously," he said.
The Duterte administration is pursuing enhanced relations with China even as Beijing continued to ramp up militarization and island-building activities in the South China Sea.
This as Beijing continued to ignore Manila's landmark victory before the United Nations arbitral tribunal in July 2016, when the court invalidated the former's expansive nine-dash line claim.