SEN. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson said he is open to Manila entering a joint venture agreement with Beijing in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) so long as China follows the 60-40 provision in the Philippine Constitution.

Lacson, who is running for president in the 2022 elections, said this would show that the Philippines "owns and has sovereign rights" in the disputed waters.

"As long as they adhere to the constitutional provision of 60-40, I am all for it," he said during a presidential forum on Saturday organized by the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Cignal TV and The Manila Times.

"If it's 60-40 it shows we 'own,' we have sovereign rights over the area," the Partido Reporma standard bearer said.

If China does not agree to the terms, "we should go back and review our security situation," he said.

He said Section 2, Article 12 of the Constitution allows the country to enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements, as long as they are 60-percent Filipino-owned.

The WPS is rich in natural gas and oil that could help address the country's energy needs, and China has been sending geologists to explore the area as far back as 1968, Lacson said.

If China is not agreeable to the 60-40 rule, the Philippines "can turn to its allies," especially those it has bilateral agreements with, he said.

Australia and Japan, and even the European Union, have shown more willingness to patrol the area as they have interests in making sure the area "is open to maritime trade," Lacson said.

"We should seize the opportunity," said the chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

Partido Reporma spokesperson Ashley Acedillo earlier said the country's next president must be able to stand "toe-to-toe" to someone like Chinese President Xi Jinping, "not just in terms of experience, but also in terms of knowledge and instincts required of the job of a Chief Executive." "Senator Lacson, as president and Commander-in-Chief, can rely on 30 years of service as a soldier and a policeman, and eventually Philippine National Police chief, a stint in the Cabinet, and almost 18 years as a veteran senator — once called upon to craft the foreign policy of the country, and eventually to deal with China for the next six years," Acedillo said.