(Bloomberg) -- The Philippines should not abandon its claims in the South China Sea given its vast energy potential, the head of the nation’s largest conglomerate by sales said on Monday.

“We have a very big reserve in the West Philippine Sea,” San Miguel Corp. President Ramon Ang said using Manila’s name for the waters that’s within its exclusive economic zone. “So let us not let go of it. We should protect our territory.”

Ang spoke during a government economic forum attended by top economic managers including Finance Secretary Ralph Recto. The business executive weighed in on higher fuel and power prices in the Philippines compared with some of its Southeast Asian neighbors, which Ang said produce oil or enjoy state subsidies.

“We have a big natural gas field in the West Philippine Sea. We should concentrate in developing that in the future,” Ang told reporters separately.

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The Philippines and China are locked in a long-standing territorial dispute over the resource-rich waterway. That has prevented Manila-listed PXP Energy Corp. from pursuing exploration of Reed Bank in the South China Sea, PXP Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said last month.

Ang said he’s not keen on investing in PXP despite his growing business ties with Pangilinan, which include plans to merge their tollway businesses.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration has asserted the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea, defying Bejiing’s expansive claims over the waterway. On Monday, Manila’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it formally protested Beijing’s four-month fishing ban in the South China Sea set to last until mid-September.

Other Philippine tycoons have voiced their views on the disputed sea. Pangilinan has said Marcos is “making the right decisions” while SM Investments Corp. Vice Chairperson Teresita Sy-Coson in December called for “more peaceful negotiation” with Manila’s top trading partner. 

--With assistance from Andreo Calonzo.

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