Solon says Chinese vessel doing Benham research enters PH territory
The Chinese vessel that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) allowed to conduct research on Benham Rise has already entered Philippine territory, according to Magdalo Partylist Rep. Gary Alejano.
Citing sources, Magdalo said the “Ke Xue Hao” Chinese vessel, which was set to conduct a maritime scientific research (MSR) on the gas-rich region, was located northeast of Palanan, Isabela as of late Tuesday.
“China’s research vessel entered Philippine territory on January 22, two days early from the granted duration of the MSR, which starts on January 24 and ends on February 25,” Alejano said in a statement.
The former Marine soldier urged the government to monitor the activity, adding that the government should ensure Filipino scientists on board the research vessel should also be given equal access to all results of the research.
“What we should make sure now is the compliance of China to all the requirements demanded by the Philippine government as conditions to the permit issued. In particular, we should be wary on the sharing of information that will be culled from the said expedition,” he said.
Alejano, who was the first to reveal that the DFA approved China’s request to conduct research on Philippine waters refuted Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque’s defense on the issue.
Responding to Roque’s statement that Filipinos are incapable of conducting a similar maritime research, the lawmaker said: “It is not because our scientists do not have the ability to conduct research. It is because the government does not allot sufficiently for it.”
“In fact, there have already been expeditions in the area conducted by Filipinos to support our claim in Benham Rise before it was awarded to us in 2012. What they need now in order to explore Benham further is more support from the government instead of demeaning remarks,” he said.
Alejano also pointed out the Duterte government’s non-allocation of funding for a research facility in Benham Rise, which was proposed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources during the budget deliberations last year.
“This administration has shown no interest and support on strengthening our presence in Benham. Thus, it has no ascendancy to say that Filipinos cannot conduct research in the area given its lack of support,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had earlier dismissed the warnings about China’s marine research, pointing out that it would in fact be favorable to the Philippines.
“Now, if China will share their scientific interest, findings, expertise with us, pabor sa atin yun (that would be favorable to us),” he said. /jpv
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