By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippine remains interested in teaming up with China on a possible oil exploration despite Vice President Leni Robredo’s plea to require Beijing to recognize the nation’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea first.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said that, while Robredo was entitled to her opinion, the government would press ahead with the joint oil venture with China as long as its project terms favor the country.
He noted that China has been “open to negotiation” amid the territorial conflict with the country.
“In relation to the West Philippine Sea, we know China is not recognizing our rights over there. In fact, they are saying it’s theirs. But nevertheless, they are open to negotiation so if it’s open we will proceed provided the terms are to our favor,” he said during a Palace press briefing.
He assured the public that the government’s main priority would always be to advance the interest of the nation.
“As far as the President is concerned and this country, we will move with respect with foreign policy on the basis of whether it is to our interest and whether or not it will boost the development, leading the progress of this land,” he said.
Robredo earlier said China should recognize the country’s ownership and sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea before the country enters into any agreement with China. She said this should be one of the country’s “most basic demands” from China especially after the country won an arbitral ruling concerning the West Philippine Sea.
“We won big in that particular case so if we will enter into any agreement with China on any of the territories that is subject of the arbitral tribunal, for me we should not enter into an agreement with China until and unless China recognizes our ownership and sovereignty over it,” she said in a television interview Monday.
In November 2018, the Philippines and China forged a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the country.
The President recently disclosed that Xi pledged to give the Philippines a larger share in the revenues from the exploration project as long as it sets aside the arbitral award that nullified China’s claims in the disputed area.
The government, however, refused to drop or abandon the arbitral ruling on the South China Sea dispute in favor of pursuing a joint oil project. Instead, Panelo said Manila would continue to address maritime conflict through peaceful negotiations with Beijing.
Recently, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. recognized that the 60-40 revenue split was “more than fair” since China would “spend for all the extraction and other things.”
He added that the country may still get a bigger share from the exploration project with China.
“60-40 is a desirable sharing but it is not final. It could even go up to 61 or more,” Esperon said during a press conference in Malacañang last week.
“One percent is always substantial when you talk about such big investments,” he added.