MANILA- Malacañang shrugged off Monday Vice President Leni Robredo's comment that Beijing must first recognize Manila's "ownership and sovereignty" over the West Philippine Sea before the 2 parties jointly explore oil and gas reserves beneath its waters.
Even though China does not recognize the Philippines' rights in the waters, Manila will still push through with the joint exploration as long as the terms are favorable, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
"We know that China is not recognizing our rights over there. In fact, they’re saying that 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 told reporters.
"As far as this President is concerned, in this country, we will move with respect to our foreign policy on 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," he added.
Robredo, head of the opposition, said Monday that while the Philippines can pursue joint deals, the country should not be placed at a disadvantage.
"Hindi tayo dapat pumasok sa isang kasunduan sa China until and unless i-recognize muna ng China iyong ating ownership and sovereignty over it... na atin iyon," Robredo told ANC.
(We should not enter an agreement with China until and unless it recognizes our ownership and sovereignty over it... that it is ours.)
Panelo said Robredo seems to be "divorced from reality" with her remarks, noting that he sometimes cannot understand what the vice president is trying to say.
President Rodrigo Duterte in August said he was "okay" with a 60-40 split of resources in the West Philippine Sea, with Manila getting the bigger share.