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Alejano warns vs DFA’s approval of China exploration in Benham Rise

'WE SHOULD BE CAREFUL AND PRUDENT IN GRANTING ANY ACCESS TO OUR WATERS ESPECIALLY WITH CHINA'
/ 10:00 AM January 12, 2018

Branching corals, home to reef fishes like damselfishes, butterfishes, and cardinal fishes, are found in the resource-rich Benham Rise, (Oceana/UPLB)

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano has expressed concern over the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) approval of China’s request to conduct a marine scientific research in Benham Rise.

In a statement late Thursday, Alejano revealed that he has received information that the DFA granted the request of the Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IO-CAS) for a marine scientific research (MSR) in Philippine waters.

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“As a requirement, they will be joined by the University of the Philippines – Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI). The project’s area will cover Eastern Luzon, where Benham Rise is located, and Eastern Mindanao,” he said.

Since 2015, Alejano, citing information from the DFA’s Maritime and Oceans Affairs Office, said China has sought several times for a permit to conduct research in Benham Rise but all requests were rejected.

The marine soldier-turned-lawmaker said the government should be “careful” and “prudent” in allowing access to Philippine waters, especially to China which has been aggressively asserting its claim over areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“We should be careful and prudent in granting any access to our waters especially with China who is known to claim 80% of our EEZ in South China Sea through its expansive 9 dash line,” Alejano said.

Alejano also claimed that the DFA rejected a similar request from a French-based non-profit organization, Tara Expeditions Foundation, to conduct marine research in the general area where the Chinese will be conducting MSR.

“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,” he said.

“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 added.                    /kga

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TAGS: Benham Rise, DFA, marine scientific research, Rep. Gary Alejano, West Philippine Sea
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