Sen. Ralph G. Recto yesterday urged Malacanang to seriously consider engaging China, not through diplomatic protests, but through a possible joint exploration agreement in the Spratlys Islands.
"Every stand-off, the territorial tension only escalates and we're not gaining anything - zero. We could pursue a different tact by working out a possible joint exploration without impinging on our sovereignty," Recto said.
Recto said the change in tact could be adopted in the wake of another escalation of tension in South China Sea over apprehended suspected Chinese poachers in Scarborough Shoal, who got a "save" from responding Chinese military vessels.
The senator, a senior member of the Senate national defense and security and of foreign relations committees, said the country should no longer wait for the ASEAN bloc to side with the country since its members are also trading with China.
Recto said the only practical solution left for the country is to pursue a possible joint exploration deal of the whole of Spratlys for gas and other natural resources.
"I'm not saying that we back track from our claim. In fact, we should do it relentlessly. But while the natural finds of Spratlys lay underneath, idle and untapped, a joint exploration appears to be the more logical engagement with China," Recto said.
"The engagement policy should be pegged on how both countries could benefit from the subterranean wealth of Spratlys -- not on how fast each country could annihilate each other in case mad men from both sides take over," he added.
Recto nevertheless stressed that the country did not forsake its sovereignty when it tapped foreign oil companies to jointly explore the Malampaya natural gas deposits off Palawan.
He said the country could put on the table its proximity to the Spraltlys for the build-up of infrastructures and other logistics needed for the joint exploration.
Recto said as an emerging power, China would naturally gravitate toward the country that is nearest to the disputed islands in case it would want to conduct exploration projects unmolested.
"We must tone down the rhetorics but we must have well-toned diplomatic and trade muscles to convince China to a joint economic exploration," Recto said.
"Although far fetched but only to stress my point, we should not wait for China to forge a joint deal with Vietnam and put up a united socialist claim over Spratlys," the senator added.