Press Release
January 25, 2018

...demands list of all foreign-, Pinoy-led studies, oceanic explorations since 2010

Senator Nancy Binay today called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to disclose the details of the permit given to Chinese oceanographers to conduct scientific research in Benham Rise.

Binay made the call in the light of the tight-lipped alleged approval by the DFA on the request of the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) for a marine scientific research (MSR) in the 13 million-hectare underwater plateau off Aurora province.

"In the interest of transparency, it would be best for the DFA to share to the public the extent of the study, research and exploration of China in Benham Rise. And since it is the DFA which approves or disapproves scientific researches in both the West and East Philippine Seas, it is only appropriate if they could provide a list of all Filipino- and foreign-led expeditions in our waters since 2010," Binay said.

According to the lady senator, there is nothing wrong if the DFA makes a disclosure of the details of the marine research.

"Mas mabuti nang malaman natin kung hanggang saan ang tulong na ibibigay ng China sa atin sa pagre-research. If it does not undermine the country's sovereignty, then I don't see anything wrong why the DFA cannot provide us with the details of the agreement between the Philippines and China," Binay added.

The DFA said it has granted marine scientific research permits to Japan, US, China, Korea and Germany since 2000.

Binay said that details like the location, number of vessels, offshore platforms, area and period of coverage, members of the technical team are important references since it is also the job of the Senate to review Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) entered into by the Philippine government.

Joined by the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) in the exploration, the DFA approved the request of the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) for a marine scientific research (MSR) in Benham Rise.

"While nothing legally hinders joint explorations, for years, it has always been an issue of policy whether or not government should allow foreign corporate interests or foreign governments to join the Philippines in exploring for resources," the senator noted.

The marine research on Benham Rise can be viewed in relation to the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) tripartite agreement of the Philippines with China and Vietnam, which provided for seismic surveys to determine whether oil and gas reserves are under the Spratlys off the West Philippine Sea.

"Sa ngayon, we need to be cautious and sparing in giving approval for joint explorations. We must first bear in mind the interest of the Filipino people. Baka naman iba ang agenda ng MSR. Our foreign partners should first acknowledge and recognize our territorial integrity and sovereignty over our waters--and that's non-negotiable," Binay pointed out.

She added that the DFA should immediately make public China's request for a marine scientific research including the nature and objectives of the project and other important details.

While nothing legally hinders joint expeditions in the conduct of marine scientific research or any studies in the potentially resource-rich Benham Rise, Binay said that Filipino scientists must co-lead explorations and not limited to foreigners.

"Maraming mga Pilipinong eksperto na ang nagsagawa ng mga pag-aaral sa ating mga dagat, sapat na siguro ang kakayahan nila upang gawin ang mga binabalak na research. But we recognize any supplementary technical assistance coming from foreign experts," she noted.

Benham Rise is a 13 million-hectare underwater plateau on the country's eastern seaboard and is seen as a potential source of oil, natural gas and other marine resources.

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