MANILA—Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez on Saturday said the Philippines should take a page out of Vietnam's strategy on defending marine resources.
"Kung ako mag-a-advise, sasabihin ko pag-aralan natin 'yung ginagawa ng Vietnam. Mas matindi ang problema nila kasi kapitbahay nila sa lupa at sa dagat ang China," Golez told radio DZMM.
"Tapos nu'ng 2014 pinasok ng China, ng isang giant oil rig, ang (exclusive economic zone) ng Vietnam. Nanindigan sila, there was a physical confrontation, sinalubong ng mga coast guard ships, fishing vessels ang oil rig ng China . . . after 3 months umatras ang China pero hindi ito nagdulot ng giyera.
"Ang ginagawa ng Vietnam, they stand up diplomatically and at the same time they also improve their defense capability."
The government was heavily criticized after it was revealed that it allowed China to conduct research on Benham Rise, a resource-rich underwater plateau located east of Isabela, which the United Nations in 2012 awarded as an extension of the Philippines’ continental shelf.
Amid criticism over the approval of the research work, the government announced stricter rules for foreign researchers seeking to explore Benham Rise.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday assured that the Benham Rise belongs to the Philippines but said the government cannot afford to confront China, Asia’s largest economy, over the militarization of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea.
“We are neutral. We will continue to talk with China. This is not the time to be fighting over South China Sea because it will only lead to a war,” he said.
Golez said he understands Duterte's strategy but insists that the arbitral win of the Philippines be brought up with China.
"Gusto niya ng diplomatic engagement, di katulad nu'ng una na halos di na nag-uusap lalo na nu'ng nag-file tayo ng protest. Gusto niya ng economic engagement at nagkaroon ng resulta," he said.
"Kasi nagtataka tayo bakit hanggang ngayon hindi pa rin pinag-uusapan 'yung panalo natin sa arbitral tribunal. The president promised the proper time, kaya lang ang tanong when is the proper time? Kasi pag masyadong matagal, gagawing istratehiya ng China, idi-dribble tayo."
Golez earlier expressed alarm allowing China to operate in Benham Rise and said he has long been monitoring Chinese activity in the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
Beijing is almost finished building military installations in the 7 reefs claimed by Manila in the Spratly archipelago, according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report which released close-up images of the artificial islands, in a move described by observers as part of China’s bid to cement its control over the contested waters.
China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims in the South China Sea where $5 trillion in trade goods pass annually. The area is also believed to contain oil and gas reserves.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have agreed to start negotiations on a code of conduct on the South China Sea in March.