Malacañang said the joint oil exploration between the Philippines and China will proceed as long as the terms of the 60-40 sharing scheme to explore the West Philippine Sea is in favor of the Philippines.
Panelo made the remark after Vice President Leni Robredo said that China should first recognize Philippine ownership and sovereignty in the disputed waters before any agreement to a joint oil deal.
The Palace official said Robredo is entitled to her own opinion, but dismissed it as a statement that is “divorced from reality”.
“Kung minsan kasi si VP Leni divorced from reality kung mag statement e. Kagaya nung sa war on drugs sabi niya failure (Sometimes VP Leni is divorced from reality when she gives statements. Just like her statement on the war on drugs which she described as a failure),” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
He acknowledged that China refused to recognize the Philippines’ win at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCO) which invalidated China’s claims to most of the South China Sea.
However, he stressed that despite this, China remains open to bilateral talks to resolve the sea row.
“We know that China is not recognizing our rights over there. They are saying it’s theirs but nevertheless, they are open to negotiation. So if it’s open, then we will proceed provided the terms are to our favor,” Panelo said.
Panelo said regardless of whether China recognized the Philippines’ arbitral win, President Rodrigo Duterte would prefer a joint oil exploration as it would give way to economic activity with China.
“As far as this President is concerned, in this country, we will move with respect to our foreign policy in the basis of whether it is to our interest and whether or not it will boost the development leading to the progress of this land,” Panelo said.
Last September, Panelo said Duterte is not setting aside the arbitral ruling in favor of a joint oil exploration with China.
Panelo said the President would rather focus on the other concerns that may mutually benefit the two countries.
He also assured that the government will always consider what is beneficial to the Philippines in so far as the terms of reference on the joint oil exploration.
The Philippines and China signed a memorandum of agreement on joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2018.
In an interview over ANC, Robredo said although a joint exploration is allowed under the Constitution, it should be one of the Philippines’ “most basic demands” for China to recognize ownership and sovereignty before any contracts are signed. (PNA)