President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (PNA photo by Alfred Frias)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday expressed readiness to partner with China for possible joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a media interview in Quezon City, Marcos broached the idea of exploring other ways to ensure the immediate development of oil and gas resources in the contested waters.

Marcos made the remark, in case the possible government-to-government partnership fails to proceed.

"We'll have to find a way kasi kailangan na natin eh (we really need it now). We already need, kung mahanap dyan kailangan na talaga ng Pilipinas (whatever resources we could find because the Philippines really need that now)," he said on the sidelines of the Kadiwa ng Pasko Caravan.

"'Yung China maliit na bagay sa kanila 'yun eh. Sa atin malaking bagay 'yan. So, kailangan natin ipaglaban at mapakinabangan kung meron ngang oil talaga (It's a small thing for China. But for us, it's a big help. So, we have to pursue that and we will benefit if there is really oil there)," he added.

Marcos also stressed the importance of addressing the "roadblock" in the joint exploration talks.

This, as he acknowledged the constitutional problems that caused delays in the possible joint exploration between the Philippines and China.

"Kasi kini-claim ng China kanila 'yun, eh atin naman talaga iyan. So, sinasabi ng Pilipinas, basta't 'yung batas kailangan masundan 'yung sa Pinas. Ang sinasabi naman ng Chinese, hindi, amin iyan eh, kaya't kailangan masundan is Chinese. Kaya 'yun talaga ang roadblock doon (China is claiming [WPS] as its property, but that is ours. For the Philippines' part, we have to follow the law. But the Chinese are saying that they own that and they want their own terms to be followed. That's the roadblock there)," Marcos said.

In November 2018, the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China on joint oil and gas development in WPS.

However, the Philippines, under the Duterte administration, terminated the talks before Marcos assumed presidency on June 30 because of constitutional constraints and issues on the country’s sovereignty.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in September this year said the two countries have so far made "initial and general discussions" on possible joint exploration in WPS but have not yet progressed to "working-level talks."

During their inaugural bilateral meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on Nov. 17, Marcos and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed that the immediate conclusion of negotiations for the final and binding Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea (SCS) will help address the maritime disputes among littoral states.

On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its petition against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, Netherlands after the court invalidated Beijing’s supposedly historic rights over nearly the entire SCS, including the WPS.

China has repeatedly ignored the 2016 PCA ruling despite the Philippines’ historic win. (PNA)