MANILA - The Philippine government should consider other commercial partners and avoid dealing with a "bully" like China in a planned exploration of oil and gas reserves in its waters, a former national security chief said Wednesday.
China is expected to be a "very dominant partner" in any exploration arrangement, bringing in an oil rig escorted by its coast guard within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), former Secretary Roilo Golez warned.
"China should be out as far as joint exploration is concerned," he told ABS-CBN News.
"Ngayon pa lang sinasabi ko, ang laki ng tsansa na tayo maagrabyado kasi masyadong malaki, masyadong makapangyarihan at armado itong kausap natin."
(This early, there's a big chance that we will be put at a disadvantage because we're dealing with a country that is so strong, so powerful and armed.)
Visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday cautioned against "unilateral development" in waters with "overlapping maritime rights and interests."
Senior Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier warned that a joint development in the Philippines' EEZ would violate the Constitution.
Golez cited the provision that guarantees the exclusive use and enjoyment of the country's marine wealth.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday announced in a news conference an upcoming joint venture with China but gave no other details.
Duterte has pursued friendlier ties with China in exchange for billions of dollars in aid and investment pledges amid the unresolved South China Sea dispute.
Concerns were raised over the President's decision to set aside Manila's 2016 arbitral win, which rejected the legal basis of Beijing's expansive claims over the South China Sea.
Former Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. warned that an exploration deal with China would be "very problematic" because of its "tendency to be so demanding."
He cited a proposed exploration on Recto Bank with China National Offshore Corp., which he described as "one-sided."
The Hague-based arbitral court later ruled that the area, said to be rich in oil and gas reserves, was part of the Philippines' 200-nautical mile EEZ.
"Why should we share our resources with China?" Cuisia told ABS-CBN News.
"My question to them: would they agree to a joint exploration and development in their own territory, in their own exclusive economic zone?"
Wang on Tuesday described China as a "good neighbor and good brother" to the Philippines.
But Cuisia cited Beijing's refusal to respect the arbitral ruling and continued militarization of reclaimed islands in the disputed waters.
Satellite images earlier released by a Washington-based think tank showed military facilities and communications equipment installed by China on the Philippine-claimed Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, and Fiery Cross Reef.
"If they are a good neighbor, if they are really sincere about being a good neighbor, why don't they voluntarily withdraw from the three reefs that they grabbed from the Philippines?" Cuisia said.