The trip of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to the Philippine Rise, formerly Benham Rise, to send off Filipino scientists, who will start maritime research there, is both “symbolic” and “assertive”, his spokesperson said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark as Duterte is set to lead on Tuesday the research team’s send-off ceremony, which coincides with the commemoration of the 2012 United Nations (UN) declaration that the undersea feature is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf.
This send-off ceremony also falls a day before the first anniversary of renaming the undersea feature from Benham Rise to Philippine Rise.
“Ito po ay symbolic at the same time assertive,” Roque said.
Roque described it as “symbolic,” pointing out that the seamount itself could not actually be visited.
“Symbolic, dahil—ang Philippine Rise naman po talaga ay iyong lupa at mga bato sa ilalim ng karagatan, hindi kami makakarating doon ‘no, doon lang kami sa karagatan sa ibabaw ng continental shelf,” Roque said.
He, meanwhile, said that it was “assertive” because it shows the government’s policy to prohibit foreign scientific research and prioritize only Filipino scientists to carry out research in the Philippine Rise.
“Pero ito ay nagpapakita na ang polisiya ng gobyerno ngayon ay talaga pong atin na hindi na muna natin ishe-share sa ibang dayuhan,” he added.
Last February, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Joel Montales confirmed that “all research had already been concluded in the area (Philippine Rise).” Montales is also chair of the inter-agency technical working group responsible for the grant of licenses to conduct scientific research in the Philippine Rise.
Roque explained that following this development, the President has ordered the revocation of all licenses given to foreign researchers.
He clarified that this does not mean that foreign researchers were totally banned from conducting research in the Philippine Rise.
“It’s not really a ban, I guess it’s just a directive that we want Filipinos to do it as much as possible. That we’re reserving it for Filipinos,” Roque said in an earlier briefing.
“He just said because our sovereign rights in Philippine Rise is unquestioned, we do not need to share it with anyone as of now,” he added.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said the government had stopped processing foreign applications for scientific research in Philippine Rise. PNA