MANILA, Philippines – China should first recognize the Philippines’ ownership and sovereignty in the West Philippines Sea before Manila enters into any joint exploration with Beijing, Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo said Monday.
Robredo’s comment came days after National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government would pursue a 60-40 sharing scheme with China for the exploration of oil in the West Philippine Sea.
READ: 60-40 sharing ‘fair’ as China will spend for WPS exploration—Esperon
“For me, the basic premise should be, even before we enter into any agreement with China, China has to first recognize our ownership and sovereignty over the area that would be subject to a joint exploration,” Robredo said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel.
Robredo cited the Philippines’ landmark victory before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague which ruled against China’s historic claims to most of the South China Sea in 2016.
“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 to 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.
The Philippines and China have signed a memorandum of agreement on joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippines Sea during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2018.
Esperon has said that the 60-40 sharing scheme in favor of the Philippines would be “fair” enough since China would spend for the exploration.
While Robredo said that a joint exploration is allowed under the Constitution, she said China should first recognize Manila’s sovereignty in the disputed sea.
“That’s basic. That should be one of our most basic demands: That before we enter into any contract with them, they recognize first out ownership and sovereignty over those areas,” she said.
“It’s allowed under the constitution. The joint exploration is allowed under the Constitution, provided that hindi tayo lugi (that we are not at a disadvantage).
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s forging of warmer ties with President Xi Jinping, China has repeatedly refused to recognize the Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea.