Palace defends decision to grant China research access in PH rise

Malacañang on Tuesday, January 23, has defended its earlier decision allowing China to carry out research in the Philippine Rise, formerly referred to as Benham Rise, which is located off Eastern Luzon.

In a press briefing, Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out that “you do not need a permit for any Filipino corporation to conduct scientific investigation in Benham Rise because it is ours so that’s not something that a consent has to be given by the government.”

But according to Roque, Filipinos have no financial capability to pursue such costly research in the Philippine Rise.

“[N]o one has applied. And no one can do it because, apparently, it’s capital intensive,” the Palace official said.

Malacañang also said that China was qualified and passed the guidelines set by the Philippines.

Among these guidelines, according to the Philippine government, is that Filipino researchers must be allowed to join Chinese researchers during explorations. All findings must also be shared with the Philippines.

Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has earlier expressed alarm over China’s involvement in the Philippine Rise research, noting that the Manila and Beijing have territorial disputes in some parts of the South China Sea.

In a statement on Monday, January 22, Pangilinan remarked that “history and experience tell us that China is not exactly the most trustworthy partner for such an activity.”

“What will the country stand to gain from this marine scientific research? Why do we need to partner with China? Can’t the Philippines do it on its own? What is in store for China after the research? How long will this be carried out, and what will be the coverage of the research? What are the mechanisms and guidelines in place in the conduct of the activity?” Pangilinan said.

The senator further asked, “Most importantly, what would be the impact of such joint undertaking on the Philippines’ national interest and security?”

In a separate statement, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano revealed that the Philippines also approved research requests from the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Cayetano told the Philippine Star that Malacañang has already approved 13 research applications from the United States, nine from Japan, and four from South Korea.

In a bid to debunk critics’ claims of the Philippine government’s supposed bias in favor of China, Cayetano also noted that only two out of 18 applications from China were approved.

The Foreign Affairs secretary further allayed fears that China would exploit Philippine resources amid access to the country’s waters.

“They all must comply with Philippine laws or we would bar them at Benham Rise,” Cayetano said.

In May last year, President Rodrigo Duterte officially renamed “Benham Rise” to “Philippine Rise” in a bid to uphold the country’s sovereign rights. Located along the Pacific Ocean 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Isabela, the Philippine Rise is believed to be rich in mineral and gas deposits.

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