Chinese institute to conduct research in Benham Rise – Alejano

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has allowed Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) to conduct marine scientific research (MSR) in eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise is located, and eastern Mindanao, Magdalo Party-List Representative Gary Alejano said on January 12.

He said as a requirement, Chinese researchers will be joined by the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI).

Alejano added that a similar request by a French-based non-profit organization, Tara Expeditions Foundation to conduct research “in the general area where the Chinese will be conducting MSR” was declined.

“Provided that we need additional resources and capabilities to study and explore our eastern waters, particularly the Benham Rise, the French-based non-profit organization is way preferable than a Chinese national scientific think tank. The Philippines has no territorial conflict with France, vis-à-vis China which has shown aggression and great interest on our territories. Geographically speaking, France is not an immediate security threat to us compared to China,” Alejano said.

“If in terms of the capability of Tara, I think it is also safe to assume that it is competent as much as IO-CAS, having already accomplished high-level scientific research missions across the world’s oceans,” he added.

In response to Congressman Alejano’s statement, DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano assured that same rules are being implemented for all countries.

“Let me check the details, but what I can assure Congressman Alejano and the Filipino people we have the same rules for all the countries,” Secretary Cayetano said.

“We have to follow the law, Filipino law says that research can be done in the continental shelf and in certain areas, marine areas, for as long as there is a Filipino onboard… for as long as all findings, data, research is shared,” he said.

He added that before the official awarding of Benham Rise as extended continental shelf of Philippines, many countries have already completed marine research in the said territory.

“There’s nothing suspicious about approval or disapproval of scientific research, whether they are Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Singaporeans, et cetera, if they comply, we will approve. If they do not comply, we will not approve,” he said.